I would like to think of Seattle as my second home. Out of the 6 years I have spent away from home a little more that 3 of them have been spent in Seattle. My wife is from there. My dad is from a town 30 minutes south, my grandmother lives there, friends, etc… The Pacific Northwest and I have have a special sort of connection, which in drawn even more closer when the average day in Salt Lake City has been an average of 102 degrees. I pine for the mild summers, spf 50 cloud cover and the high dive at Green lake. I feel a nostalgic wave come over me when I hear a lush, orchestral folk band from the Emerald City awash in unapologetic sense of romantic lyricism and nakedly beautiful chamber pop. Grand Hallway, I suppose, shares a template with a lot of bands that are putting out music today. Folk influences, you know, with banjoes, steel guitars, choirs, shuffling 4/4 tempos, etc, matched with the urgency and brimming energy of obvious touchstones of Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens. The guilty pleasures that take you hook line and sinker every time with the huge swells and over the top melodies. Yeah, it’s that. But Grand Hallway seems a lot more restrained, the ballads have ample space to breathe and outnumber the bombastic money-makers on this glorious little record. Band leader and vocalist Tomo Nakayama, the sensitive soul with the vocal charisma that helps you overlook some of the strained climaxes and emoting that goes on, seems obsessed with squeezing every little drop of lyrical beauty out of (count em) 24 contributing musicians. With all that is going on, nothing feels fabricated or rushed. There is probably a narrative thread through this album (there usually is) but I am too caught up in the lyrical imagery of nature and sweet little scenes of careful observation and bottomless instrumentation Did I mention it is beautiful. It is. The contributing members really make this album much more the sum of its parts. Combing through some of the coolest Seattle bands, Mr. Nakayama has enlisted quite the A-Team here (including a member of Sleepy Eyes of Death – my first review!).