Tiny Hazard have a reputation. Sifting through the buzz of indie blogs and word of mouth throughout Manhattan’s boroughs, the general consensus has been set: When it comes to live performances, this Brooklyn-based band could lap anyone with their dizzying, adrenaline-spiked spirals. They’ve pulled off the feat of bottling chaos, letting it loose on their tracks to fuel moments of fervor, and then deftly reigning in the cacophony. They’re the mad ones that burn in the night, and we’re enraptured by the glow.
Their first full-length album, Greyland, follows a long period of careful, creative curation. Having met while in college at the New School, Tiny Hazard first forged a name for themselves in neighboring venues before setting their sights on this latest ten-track LP. Hours were split between the studio and the familiar, insular world of their bedrooms, which is somewhat unexpected considering the uproar that so often characterizes their music. There’s an element of theater to their sound, a trait that’s most obvious in the style of their lead, opera-trained vocalist, Alena Spanger. Her voice has been described as “acrobatic” and “unhinged at will,” as it soars into high octaves with a nightingale trill. There's a certain waver to her timbre that fits with the band's delightfully volatile aesthetic.
Introducing their album is the single “Sesame,” with a melody that at first blush feels delicate, glistening with childlike naivety. Spanger's voice has a whispery, doe-eyed innocence in its soprano stretches. The lyrics are evocative of a fable, opening with imagery of a high castle and a bounty of berries, as Spanger sings, “You were a bobcat / Proud and fine / A sleek animal,” her voice quivering over each consonant. As the song progresses, cracks in its glimmering veneer break through. Spanger’s voice becomes more maniacal as she sings, “Down, down / Endlessly in the waves,” the words contorting under their gravelly delivery.
“Sharkwhirl” also feeds off this feeling of things unraveling, as if we’re on the brink of a free-falling delirium. Spanner’s voice swirls in a laughter that borders on lunacy as pools of distortion surround her. It’s experimental, percussion-heavy, limbs-failing rock like you’ve never heard before, a window of opportunity to go absolutely berserk that lasts just a little over a minute. But like I said, Tiny Hazard know how to steady themselves so they don’t crash and burn.
“Ink” is a slower, more meandering track. Spanger’s voice still ricochets to impressive heights, but in a more muted manner. It’s peppered with ambient noises, a stream of synth that feels like a UFO hovering before landing, and a steady, subdued guitar line whose notes feel like a pulse across the melody. There are subtly layered vocals as well, a light echo in the airwaves that doesn’t unnerve or befuddle—it simply adds to this slightly melancholic, pensive respite, which proves Tiny Hazard’s range. They’re not just here for the brouhaha.
Greyland is absolutely unique. It’s wild, and yet carefully laid out—a listen that'll have you dipping your toes into a delightful madness.