Hopeful Monster is the musical brainstorm of songwriter / producer Jason Ball and friends, since the year 2000. Hopeful Monster's third album, Beautiful Island, is coming in March 2013.
Jason Ball - Guitar, Piano, Vocal
Jose Contreras - Drums, Guitar, Vocal
Randy Lee - Bass, Percussion, Violin
Alex McMaster - keyboards, Cello, Vocal
BEAUTIFUL ISLAND (coming March 2013)
HOPEFUL MONSTER (2002)
SPIN — Catch The Buzz
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Canadian songsmith Jason Ball gathers a psych-pop troupe to flesh out his bubbly electronic, harmony...Canadian songsmith Jason Ball gathers a psych-pop troupe to flesh out his bubbly electronic, harmony-laced numbers recalling the best of the Postal Service.
by JOE COSCARELLI
Hopeful Monster head Jason Ball began his studio experimentations in rural Nova Scotia, Canada before settling comfortably amidst the Toronto indie scene where he crafts '60s piano-pop throwbacks, building staccato, Zombies-style ditties and updating each with electronic flourishes. Ball -- with a recently cemented five-piece line-up, featuring members of the Hylozoists and By Divine Right -- delivers synth lines conjuring Grandaddy's bounce and emotive melodies that breeze over measured computer buzzes with the earnestness of the Postal Service.
NOW Toronto — Shows That Rocked Toronto Last Week
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Thursday night at Mitzi’s Sister starred musicians who’ve kicked around for years and whose craft is...Thursday night at Mitzi’s Sister starred musicians who’ve kicked around for years and whose craft is achingly well hewn because of it. Hopeful Monster, Jason Ball’s long-standing chamber pop project, gave a confident performance that showcased Ball’s terrific voice and melodic knack. Best were the sparser tunes in which Jose Contreras, who plays guitar in the band, harmonized while Ball pounded away on Mitzi’s stage piano. A brand-new song called New Start was so good – and appropriately hopeful – it hurt.
EXCLAIM! — A Remarkable Debut
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Some recording projects just seem to have a miraculous touch to them, and JBall’s debut as Hopeful M...Some recording projects just seem to have a miraculous touch to them, and JBall’s debut as Hopeful Monster is one of those. Pieced together in rural Nova Scotia at his own Nervous System Studio, Ball writes and performs much of this sweeping, layered pop record, piling horns, strings and extra touches atop his simple, catchy melodies and managing to keep the whole under control—something that acclaimed Elephant Six producer Robert Schneider, dealing in similar circumstances, often has trouble doing. In many less experienced musicians, ambition is one thing, execution quite another, which is why hopeful monster comes off as such a masterstroke. From the quieter, more introspective tracks like “Universal Donor” to the zippier Zombies-esque romps, to the delicate balladry and ambitious arrangements, Ball manages to pull it all off with aplomb. His familiarity with the landscape of pop’s history allows him to both submerse himself in it and subvert it from within, like “Goldmine.” A remarkable debut that sparks hope that this Hopeful Monster is a marathon runner, not a sprinter.
By James Keast
CHART ATTACK — Here's To Hopeful Monster
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Until recently, 2002 seemed destined to be remembered as the year the music died. Many of the hyped ...Until recently, 2002 seemed destined to be remembered as the year the music died. Many of the hyped critical releases have passed by this reporter with little interest or sympathy. […] Then a little package from Halifax's Hopeful Monster landed on my desk a couple of weeks ago and I'm in love, well, maybe just very very happy and sappy. Multi-instrumentalist Jason Ball with the help of Paul Aucoin has made the best solo pop album since Todd Rundgren's amazing tour-de-force, Something/Anything. The self-titled release skitters through many different styles: pop, new wavey electro-pop ("River Reflective") cool Bacharachian piano-pop ("Daily Electric") and spacey-pop — all this in just the first two songs. Throughout this album I find myself singing along to lyrics like "I want you so bad I damn myself to hell" from "Goldmine" and banging on any surface to "Stars Are Photomagnets" and "Cobra Wings." This is my favourite album of 2002 so far!!
By Chris Burland
BEES KNEES — Canada's Very Own Great Lakes
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Canada’s very own Great Lakes would have to be Hopeful Monster. Demand a refund on your latest Sloa...Canada’s very own Great Lakes would have to be Hopeful Monster. Demand a refund on your latest Sloan record, and get this record! Hopeful Monster is all about the Zombies, Rundgren, Lilys, Love, Wilson and Parsons. You get 60s orchestra pop with lush strings, bubblegum, r&b grooves, and country-tinged songs all within the first few tracks. Hopeful Monster is one man for the most part—Jason Ball—and you can tell he has spent loads of hours in a studio, as this project has the sound of someone who plays, produces, and engineers. It’s full to the very last note, and hard to imagine a better Elephant 6 record not made by those Athens/Denver collective.
CALGARY STRAIGHT — Going Coastal
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Where do they come from, these bottomless reserves of melodies that evoke every great Californian po...Where do they come from, these bottomless reserves of melodies that evoke every great Californian pop moment of the past 30 years –whether the Beach Boys or Flying Burrito Brothers or Fleetwood Mac – without mimicking any of them? And why is that their most generous springs are almost all clustered in Nova Scotia, lying in wait for yet another local prodigy to harvest an album’s worth of them and then share them with the world? And why does our country continue to ignore them while, overseas, tongues wax ecstatic?
Last year, Halifax’s the Heavy Blinkers released Better Weather, an evocatively titled masterpiece seemingly broadcast from an alternate universe in which AM Top 40 radio dictates the tenor of life. It remains one of the best classicist Canadian pop record in years, but it has strong competition in this debut from Hopeful Monster, the vehicle for one Jason Ball. Written, performed and produced by Ball at his rural home studio in Seabright, he and a supporting cast of over a dozen have created 11 songs that strive to do justice to a bygone era of pop in which grandeur was requisite, size mattered (think Phil Spector, Pet Sounds).
Hopeful Monster gets down to business immediately, “River Reflexive” letting loose a flurry of horns, harmonies, and Who-like drum flourishes while Ball declares “Someday when the stars are all in line / I’ll make gospel of the cliches.” Perhaps better still is “Daily Electric,” a Theremin-dappled gem that imagines the Banana Splits taking over from Brian Wilson after his late-’60s meltdown, but fronted by the Zombies’ Colin Blundstone. There’s also a clutch of lovely chamber-country ballads; the pedal steel that weaves throughout “Universal Donor” sounds as if it’s been left to fend for itself in the desert, while “Cobra Wings” and “Silver Lining” rise out of their initially disconsolate moods to become widescreen testimonials to joy. Another under-the-radar homespun classic. What will it take to make more people hear the brilliance in our midst?
By Michael White
CANADIAN MUSICIAN — A Welcome Addition
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HOPEFUL MONSTER is an evolutionary term, referring to the process by which an organism mutates to th...HOPEFUL MONSTER is an evolutionary term, referring to the process by which an organism mutates to the point of being recognized as a new, unique species. Likewise, Hopeful Monster, the band, springs from recognizable musical DNA to create something worthy of celebrating on its own terms.
An ace arranger, JBall revels in studio layering and stacks of harmonies a la Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys or more contemporary soundscapers like The High Llamas. "Both of those references have pretty sophisticated arrangements, which is something that I've been working towards," says Ball. "They're both good shoulders to be standing on."
What keeps the baroque sound of Hopeful Monster intriguing is the infusion of rootsy elements, like steel guitar and fiddle, punches of horns here and there, and brightly strummed acoustic guitars. Among the standout tracks, "Daily Electric" offers Bacharachian horn parts, bouncy pop piano and theremin. "Goldmine" is a deftly written ballad adorned with steel guitar and vibes, and "Cobra Wings" shimmers and soothes like an afternoon in the shade of a palm tree. Ball's voice is the perfect instrument for these tunes, evoking comparisons to pop vocal princes like Todd Rundgren or Carl Wilson.
Hopeful Monster is a welcome addition to the diversity and ongoing evolution of East Coast music.
By Jim Kelly
AMPLIFIER — A Beguiling Sound
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Hopeful Monster’s mastermind Jason Ball plays guitars, keyboards, bass, percussion, mandolin and the...Hopeful Monster’s mastermind Jason Ball plays guitars, keyboards, bass, percussion, mandolin and theremin, but this isn’t a one-man show. Creating what could be described as an “analog orchestra” (also populated with strings and horns), Ball has given this disc a lush and quirky sound. If the theremin signals a clue into Ball’s love of the Beach Boys, then the sweet layered vocals and the sunshine pop vibes make his affection explicit. Separating Ball from the other would-be Wilsonians is his creative use of country elements (particularly Dale Murray’s invaluable pedal steel playing). While “River Reflexive” and “Daily Electric” kick the record off to a bouncy start, the twangy and dreamy “Universal Donor” slows the pace. Instead of writing about surfing and girls, Ball favors rather knotty lyrics (“cast me off this naked bough/ the fruit is rotten”) that make his songs more esoteric than engaging. Its notable that “Goldmine,” which recalls both early Todd Rundgren and Neil Young, stands as the disc’s most emotionally direct track as well as one of its most memorable songs. With one foot in the ‘60s Space Age and the other in a desert sand dune, Ball has created a beguiling sound for his Hopeful Monster.
By Michael Berick
POPNEWS.COM — Objet De Grande Classe
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Curieux objet ce "Hopeful Monster", objet de grande classe mais tellement hors mode et si dédouané d...Curieux objet ce "Hopeful Monster", objet de grande classe mais tellement hors mode et si dédouané de toute velléité de modernisme qu'il interpelle. "Hopeful Monster", mené par un certain Jason Ball, est un grand disque de pop en forme d'hommage à la musique des 60's à tendance orchestrale. L'album est ainsi parsemé de clins d'œil au "Odessey & Oracle" des Zombies ("Daily Electric"), au baroque de Left Banke ("Goldmine") ou au confort luxuriant de "Pet Sounds" (" Cobra Wings").
Le disque promène donc l'auditeur parmi des morceaux à l'évidence rare et orchestrés somptueusement. Assurément, vous tomberez dans le panneau de ces pop songs dont l'unique vocation est de vous décrocher un sourire niais ou de vous faire vous sentir amoureux, de celles qui vous donnent l'impression que les oiseaux chantent sur votre passage. Les instruments abondent comme pour renforcer ce sentiment d'onirisme intemporel: cordes, trompettes, pedal steel, clavecin. Le chant est raffiné et d'une rare justesse.
Pour résumer, "Hopeful Monster" est un peu le disque que Tahiti 80 rêverait d'enregistrer. La voix de Jason Ball rappelle d'ailleurs étrangement celle de Xavier Boyer. Quelques similitudes avec Sondre Lerche ou Divine Comedy sont également discernables mais c'est résolument vers les années 60 que cet album se tourne. "Hopeful Monster" donne d'ailleurs parfois plus l'envie de se replonger dans les classiques sus-nommés que d'actionner le mode "repeat", une fois ses onze chansons écoulées. C'est son unique limite. Les morceaux se bonifient, du reste, lorsqu'ils se teintent d'accents country ("Silver Lining"), se revêtent d'une couleur soul ou se dotent de claviers vintage. Quand ils se décident un peu à aller voir ailleurs, en somme.
Ce disque n'en demeure pas moins au-dessus du lot des productions pop actuelles. Ce monstre là est à suivre de très près.
BETAMUSIC.I.AM — Singapore Interview
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1.What was the first record you owned? Motley Crue “Theatre of Pain” 2. How did you come up w...1.What was the first record you owned?
Motley Crue “Theatre of Pain”
2. How did you come up with the name Hopeful Monster? It’s all mainly just you, isn’t it?
Hopeful Monster is a term that archaeologists use to explain gaps if the fossil record. A hopeful monster is the offspring of an animal of one species that is different enough from its parent that it has to be considered a different species. Like if a horse gave birth to a unicorn.
It was just me at first, then my room-mate Paul Aucoin helped me record an album of my songs. Now Paul is busy with other bands (The Sadies, The American Flag) but I have a 6 piece band that plays songs from the album and some new naterial. Their names are Andy Patil, Damien Moynihan, Dale Murray, Dave Christensen and Greg Fry.
3. You live in rural Nova Scotia. What is it like?
It’s beautiful, I grew up here so I can’t help loving it. My studio is near the ocean in a little valley called “Rocky Holler.” There are trees everywhere except a little marsh between my house and the beach. Mostly the coastline is pretty rocky and wild, I think its romantic. Very quiet too, I find it inspiring, easier to concentrate than in the city.
4. Why did you call your studio Nervous System and what do you use in the studio?
Because I wasn’t very confident about it when I started—but I also like the double meaning: it’s the nerve centre of all my recording projects, so in a way it helps me organize my inklings into gestures.
Basically its computer-based—I use a mac with Pro-Tools, and some other software. I like to use vintage analog pre-amps, amplifiers and effects to give the sounds some grit—digital recording is very clean, some people think its TOO clean, but if you can get good sounds at the input stage, they’ll sound EXACTLY the same during playback.
My friend Brenndan McGuire owns some of the studio’s best gear—he has recorded albums with Sloan, By Divine Right, Sam Roberts and A LOT of other Canadian artists. We use his mixing console, a YAMAHA PM 2000 from the mid-seventies. Parliament and Ted Nugent both recorded albums on it.
5. What’s it like now where you live--are people against the US-Iraqi war?
Opinion is divided, but most of my friends are artists and they tend to be pacifists. Plus they don’t have much to gain from it—many of the supporters of the war are involved in economic machinery that depends on the kind of foreign policy that this war is meant to protect. They lose their jobs when the companies they work for aren’t able to turn resources into profit. Artist don’t make any money anyway, so they have nothing to lose, and they’re used to looking at things with that in mind. Personally, I’m interested in the question of sovereignty versus world government.
6. I have a friend whom I played your record for. He was shocked because he felt that you existed for other people, because your music had touched him so intimately. Your thoughts?
I’m happy to hear your friend felt that way about our music. I think people carry around a lot of references in the back of their minds, they make categories of things they like and don’t like—when they find something that reflects their own preferences, it’s like they “couldn’t have said it better themselves.” I always think I’m too self-absorbed, but I kind of hope that by pursuing my own instincts, I will become part of a community made up of those whose instincts have lead them in the same directions. In the end, its really a big, never-ending conversation between me & you & your friend & Todd Rundgren & all the other artists who have touched each of us in the way your friend describes.
7. "Daily Electric" reminds me so much of the Elephant 6 bands--the baroque arrangements, the vocals, the harmonies. Are you a fan?
I’ve heard some Elf Power I really liked, but to be honest I’m not very familiar with most of the roster. That’s the third comparison though, so I better check it out!
8. How long have you been writing songs and making music?
I started playing piano when I was three or four—picking out melodies, just fooling around. I took some lessons for a few years when I was a teenager, started playing guitar and writing songs when I was about sixteen.
9. How did you get your record released on Brobdingnagian?
My friends’ band the Heavy Blinkers had a couple of records out with the label, so they introduced me to Dennis Stewart (label owner) and we talked about it, made some plans and out it came!
10. Do you have a day-job?
Not really—between producing records at the studio and working as a lighting technician for local film & TV productions, I’m able to dig myself out of debt a couple times a year. Now the record’s been out for almost a year, I’m starting to see some royalty money, and the band makes a little. I’ve never been able to fully get into my music projects unless I have some time and space to let the ideas sprawl—Contract work is better for me in that way, but the income is unpredictable, so it’s a double-edged sword.
11. If you had to give yourself a job reference, what would you say?
Depends on the job, I guess. I hope its one that will let me give them CDs instead of a resume—in that case, I’d give them the hopeful monster CD and the new Heavy Blinkers CD (produced at Nervous System), because they both demonstrate my ability to write and record music that is (I think) both original and accessible.
12. My favorite song on your album is "Universal Donor" .Since you referred to “my own blood would be rejected”, may we assume you know what blood type is a universal donor?
Yeah, again with the double meaning—I’m type O. Now I’m not sure if that’s the right blood type, but it doesn’t really matter if you take it metaphorically—it’s the self-sacrifice that’s the focus of the song. The idea is that we hope to benefit society by suffering all the big & little blows that fate deals us—it costs us, but we pass on wisdom to save others the experience.
13. But seriously, I love the pedal steel and the way the melody wends its way up and up when you sing “….but I missed the cup”.
14. This album sounds like it took some time to record. Would you work differently next time?
Definitely. I had to do it that way because it was my first record (as a producer, anyway…) but the next one will be a lot more stripped down. We’re working on songs now for a recording session in July—we want to get all our ya-yas out while we’re rehearsing and record only the best parts of these brainstorms. This way we do the exploring outside the studio. But there’ll still be plenty of experiments when we record—hopefully more sonic than musical though. I’d like to have a clearer vision of the songs, BEFORE we start tracking.
15. What do you think is holding back the Canadian music scene from taking the world?
There are plenty of Canadians who have made big impressions on the world music scene—Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Shania Twain & lots more—but mostly they have come into world focus through the American music industry. There just isn’t the market potential in Canada to pour the kind of money into a wide variety of artists that the American companies do. But more and more small-scale artists are able to create international opportunities in a grass-roots way: separate licensing for different territories, with each niche label promoting artists to the extent they can afford. In this sense, there may be dozens of people all working independently worldwide to promote a given artist. With email its not hard to create & maintain these connections. It would be nice to have the money to make a massive media blitz, cuz people will buy things if you tell them enough times—but its rewarding in a different, maybe more important way when there are so many people doing the legwork just cuz they love the music.
Interview by Chung Horn Lee
Summer's Only Daughter
The End Of Road
A Foot In The Dream
vocal mics x 4
acoustic guitar DI
There are no upcoming dates at this time.