Review: Hunter – 1960

1960, released in October 2020, is the first EP by Hunter, a group consisting of singer Hunter Stamas and guitarist and vocalist Cameron Gilhooly. They had previously released two albums, their first being Hunter, released in 2015 and their second, Listen to Hunter, in 2018. 1960 is a slight departure from these first two albums in that things have been stripped down to their most essential to create a lean, almost 60s-like folk rock sound. It was a great decision to do so as it showcases the group’s poetic lyrics and layered sound.

The songs are about the dynamics of all sorts of relationships, whether it be between mother and daughter as showcased on “Crocodile Tears,” man and woman as on “West Wing” or father and daughter as on “Ode to Dad.” Generally speaking, the lyrics of most songs like this are one-sided—one person in a relationship laments the loss of the other while perhaps expressing anger or regret. This is not the case on this EP. Like the lyrics of one of their influences, Bob Dylan, Hunter’s are simultaneously direct and abstract. They are from the viewpoints of both sides, creating a push-and-pull dynamic that extends from the general relationships as outlined above to the smallest elements of the stories they are placed in. 

For example, in “Crocodile Tears,” Stamas sings “I’m not angry / and I’m happy that you’re happy,” then after a line “It’s not attractive to be angry / You’re a lady / But guess what I’m angry.” Stamas not only weaves seamlessly between the mother and daughter but also between the emotions of the daughter, which go from denying that she’s angry to outwardly showing it. 

In “Helen of Troy,” a song from the viewpoint of one friend to another, the changes happen very subtly. At first the lines of the chorus include “the others never understood / just quite like you know I would,” but it later switches to “the others never understood / just quite like I know you would,” (emphasis mine) alternating between the two versions towards the end. It not only brings the two characters in the song together, but it also brings the two halves of the EP together, since it sits squarely in the center of what begins with a song involving a mother and ends with one involving a father.

The instrumentation and vocals on 1960 are on par with the lyrics. The instruments consist chiefly of acoustic guitars and tambourines, with the occasional use of maracas, an electric guitar, handclaps and on the last track, a harmonica. They fit the general feel of the album, being not too heavy nor too light for the vocals and subject matter. The vocals are done by both Stamas and Gilhooly, usually Stamas during the verses and the two together during the choruses, and are sometimes double tracked to give them more presence. Sort of like how Brian Jonestown Massacre leans into the 60s psychedelic sound or how Allah-Lahs leaned into garage rock from the same era on their debut, Hunter goes in the direction of 60s folk rock but brings their own energy to it. It elevates the EP above mere pastiche and makes the songs all the more engaging.

The lyrics and instruments would mean nothing if it weren’t for the production. Like with their previous albums, they self-produced 1960, and it’s clear that they know what they’re doing. Everything sounds clear, from the guitars to the tambourine to the vocals, even when they come together during the choruses. Nothing sounds tinny or underproduced. It’s a clean listen.

1960 is a great EP no matter how it’s looked at. From the lyrics to the instrumentation to the production, everything is done at a high level, and the songs stand alone or as a collection. They are catchy to boot, and they have the ability to be so for a long time. Anyone interested in the groups they list on their site as being their influences should check this EP out.

Michael Parke

Featured photo by Eric Snyder