Track Review: Thumbs Up // The Howl & The Hum

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Before The Howl & The Hum even released their debut album Human Contact in 2020, it was clear that the York alt-folk piece were onto something remarkable. An unbreakable thread of raw honesty and vulnerability runs throughout their entire back catalogue, supported by gorgeous arrangements that take the centre stage or pull back at all the right places. This band knows exactly when to increase the intensity or make space for Sam Griffiths’ haunting vocals and soul-piercing words.

The new single ‘Thumbs Up’, The Howl & The Hum’s first in over a year, is delivered in the same quiet and minimalistic style as ‘The Only Boy Racer Left On The Island’ and ‘Sweet Fading Silver’.

They strip the song down to the essentials — calm vocals, tender guitar and keys — because no bombastic production is needed to address the subject: suicide.

“There’s a hole in my hometown / all my friends seem to fall down / and never will float out,” Griffiths confesses in this gut-wrenching song, one that will leave a dry eye only on those who have never lost a loved one to depression. “I think we should talk,” he sings, almost breaking the fourth wall. It feels like he is in your living room, slowly stirring a cup of tea and bracing for a difficult conversation, so delicate and personal that neither of you knows what to say next. 

“‘Thumbs Up’ is the confession that us men don’t know how to talk to other men about important sh*t,” Griffiths explains in the press release. “This song was written in the silence after suicides of friends, during depressive episodes, and over non-existent conversations about how we communicate our feelings: our highs, our lows, our loves and losses.”

It is unknown whether ‘Thumbs Up’ is a standalone single or will be a part of The Howl & The Hum’s next album, but one thing is clear – there are great things to come from the captivating quartet.

The Howl & The Hum are currently on their UK tour. Dates and tickets are available here.

Written by Marie Oleinik


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