With hindsight, and as noted by BBC Music’s Huw Stephens, 2020 might not have been the best time to release an album called Human Contact. However, something special was already well in the making pre-lockdown, and the boys from York, known as The Howl & The Hum, have kept calm and carried on, to deliver an absolute belter of a debut.

FMS have long been fans of the self-proclaimed ‘miserable disco’ four-piece, whose musical precision and literary prowess combine powerfully to provide a dynamism and rather unapologetic self-confidence both on stage and in their music.

Having released their debut EP, Godmanchester Chinese Bridge, in 2017, The Howl & The Hum’s debut album exhibits an incredibly polished melange of melancholy synth-pop and heartfelt minimalist ballads, exploring some deep relationship experiences, tour observations and the gut-wrenching feelings of letting go through frontman Sam Griffiths’ witty and often profound lyrics. “Human Contact is about a very modern kind of loneliness: one in which we are reminded of intimate moments which haunt us, via technology or through isolation. This album is both a breakup record and a love letter to memory, and the fading definition of human contact itself.

“Recorded in September 2019, this album was written before society fell into a period of self-isolation, which goes to show the importance of Human Contact in a digital age.”

“Human Contact is about a very modern kind of loneliness: one in which we are reminded of intimate moments which haunt us, via technology or through isolation.”

Musically, the album seems to offer a lot more than its 13 songs would have you expect. Moving from dark and pensive to the positively anthemic, and mixing various different ratios of guitar, synth and minimalism to great effect, the record generates a real anticipation as to what comes next.

The rather minimalistic synth bass and distorted vocals of ‘Love You Like A Gun’ provide a moody prelude to ‘Human Contact,’ the strong rhythmic title track that builds up gradually with a catchy repetitive chorus that’s found itself to be rather pertinent to the current lockdown situation we find ourselves in.

‘Hall Of Fame’ is a whirlwind of a song that bursts into life from the beginning with Jack Williams’ machine-gun drumming, while the incredibly catchy guitar synth track ‘Until I Found A Rose’ is reminiscent of the upbeat dark wave-era Editors as it carefully pays tribute to a loved one.

“This album is both a breakup record and a love letter to memory, and the fading definition of human contact itself.”

Indeed, the lyrics really are at the heart of this album. The more delicate ballads ‘Hostages’ and ‘Smoke’ use clever metaphors to express the pain of an inevitable break-up and the torment of not being able to let go. The thought-provoking ‘Two lovers met/Two strangers left’ lines from the former offer a succinct and heart-breaking reality of a feeling many people have experienced in their lives.

The album also offers two huge songs that are positioned like anchors within the track listing and offer a little light relief in their lyrics. ‘The Only Boy Racer Left On The Island,’ which was written about a boy racer overtaking their tour bus during their 2017 tour on Orkney, is another gorgeous ballad that features the tongue-in-cheek lyrics ‘They say you could hear the engine from the mainland’ and builds up to a slow, catchy chorus.

“Recorded in September 2019, this album was written before society fell into a period of self-isolation, which goes to show the importance of Human Contact in a digital age.”

The other – ‘Sweet Fading Silver’ – is worthy of being the longest song on the album, with an atmospheric build-up to a powerful crescendo showing off Sam’s vocal range and referencing Dad’s Fiat Punto in the continued lyrical theme of letting go of the past.

Bookended by the contemplative lyrics ‘Such a beautiful day to sit in the dark while the world turns away,’ ‘[Pigs]’ is a rather downbeat stripped-down ballad at the end of the album that differs markedly from the songs that precede it, feeling a little like a bonus track and rounding off an eclectic collection of songs that span a number of genres while maintaining the dark, brooding style.

The Howl & The Hum’s debut album is powerful, showing off the band’s undoubted musicianship and unafraid to delve deeply into some uncomfortable personal subjects that are cleverly articulated through some beautiful imagery. Pour yourself a whisky, put it on the record player and close your eyes – it’s one to savour.

The Howl & The Hum are Sam Griffiths, Bradley Blackwell, Conor Hirons and Jack Williams.

Follow the band on social media for news of a mini UK tour in September.

Human Contact is set for release on the 29 May 2020.

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