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Hal's odyssey continues with more warm, west coast harmonies

For a while back there in the middle of the past decade, it seemed as if the forces of melody and harmony were finally gaining the upper hand in Irish music against the heinous arts of singer-songwriter navel-gazing emerging from the dark fortress of Whelan's.

The Thrills had a brilliant year in 2003, and in their wake it looked like Killiney quartet HAL were next to make their way into the charts at home and abroad.

Fronted by brothers Dave and Paul Allen, the echoes of classic pop acts (the Beach Boys in particular) could be discerned throughout their eponymous 2005 debut. Play the Hits can now be heard every weekday on RTE1 as the theme for the John Murray Show.

Everything looked set for HAL to strengthen their position when they went into the studio in 2006 for their second album and then... nothing. It probably didn't help that chief songwriter Dave Allen 'disappeared' in the States around this time. Glad to say, HAL have finally returned with that long-awaited second album.

The Time, The Hour appears courtesy of HAL Music, with the band returning on their own terms to an industry which has changed beyond all recognition in the seven years they've been away.

What hasn't changed, however, is the band's devotion to the craft of songwriting and arrangement and they've been honing their skills.

The melodic twists and turns of Be With You, Magnificent, Close to Her and the closing track Hannah are a joy to behold, the harmonies betraying the aforementioned West Coast influences yet always in service of The Song.

>George Byrne

HAL play the Button Factory tonight. The Time, The Hour is available at HAL Music