The Bell and the Hammer – I Am the Wounded

It’s been over twelve years since Cincinnati’s The Bell and the Hammer released To Set Things Right. The world has changed for everyone in that time, but especially for Dan and Serenity Johnson, the husband/wife duo behind the project, who have since had three children.

Parenthood brings with it a sort of introspection toward one’s own childhood—the wounds incurred that never quite healed, the dreams for the future that never materialized, the countless griefs that took years to name. And judging by “I Am the Wounded,” the first single from their upcoming album The Things We Get Wrong, that introspection has been in full force.

The track is filled with achingly relatable lyrics like, “I wear my grief like it’s my maiden name;” “I’m getting too old to stay the same;” “It takes a lifetime to heal, to be okay with who you became.” Each word cuts deep while offering a sort of comfort that comes from commiseration.

Out of context, it might seem uncomfortably intimate, like inadvertently walking in on a therapy session. But any discomfort is completely undone by the positively infectious melodies and 90s-inspired, sunkissed instrumentation. Their indie-folk palette has always been heavily in line with bands like The Innocence Mission and Over the Rhine, but there’s a brightness here that is reminiscent of acts like Sixpence None the Richer, Letters to Cleo, and even Sheryl Crow. Breezy drums, jangling acoustic chords, bright lead lines, and Serenity’s impressive voice give the words an inviting quality, feeling less voyeuristic and more like sitting down to coffee for a friend.

To be clear, To Set Things Right was a sophisticated and mature record in its own right. But judging by “I Am The Wounded,” the new record will find the Bell and the Hammer has stepped into a new level of earnestness and craftmanship.

The Things We Got Wrong is out August 5th through Friend Club Records.

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