Coleman Hell is sitting in an interesting position. He released a free mixtape followed by an extended play (EP) titled "VENA" in 2014 and then a self-titled EP in 2015. The debut single, "2 Heads" was on the Billboard Alternative chart for over 20 weeks and is easily one of the best dance tracks to come out last year. The release date for Coleman Hell's first full length album, "Coleman Hell" is yet to be announced, but he is one of the most hyped electronic artists on the planet right now and most of that talk is based on the strength of just six songs.
Born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Canadian electronic artist never let growing up in a small town keep him from locking down his dreams. Once he moved to Toronto, he founded the artists collective Sideways (with writing partner La+ch) and released "Stark Raving," his first mixtape.
In 2014, Hell released the VENA EP through his Sideways collective. The record is straight ahead house-driven electronic dance music (EDM). The opening track, "Venezuela," is light and frothy falsetto dance that would play much better in a club than home alone over MacBook speakers. The third track, "Fortress," plays with the album's bubbly dance sound by getting a little funkier and showing what Hell could really do when it came to production.
In 2015, the self-titled EP backs away from the falsetto and house beats and delves deeper into actual storytelling with his catchy dance pop. The opening track, "Sitcom," is self-deprecating and funny while also being a deceptive little ear worm. Then "2 Heads" has a ridiculously fun banjo sample, which combined with Hell's much stronger and raspier vocals, makes it easy to believe the millions of Spotify streams and Youtube views. "Thumbalina" is a no- frills dance pop energizer bunny, boasting a nice piano sample and sunny vocals. "Take Me Up" hits a little harder but is still relentlessly upbeat in its desire to make everyone shake a little tail.
"After Hours" slows things down a little bit and adds some introspection to the proceedings without losing Hell's infectious sense of making sure everyone is having fun. The EP closer, "Move On," definitely sounds like Imagine Dragons, but without the insipid lyrics and glossy hollowness. Overall, the album is energizing, if not a bit disposable, with "2 Heads" definitely being the standout track. Just based on the interest shown in "2 Heads," Hell was signed by Columbia Records, who released his second EP and will be releasing his debut full-length later this year.
According to an interview Hell did with Radio.com, he was pretty blown away when he heard "2 Heads" on the radio for the first time. "Oh, I was super emotional. I'm a pretty emotional person so I can well up pretty easily. I would be driving around with my parents as a kid listening to the radio with them—I listened to the radio so much growing up, like classic rock. My mom would always be like, 'One day you're going to be on there.' Actually hearing it on the radio was a pretty big moment for me."
Regardless of how well his debut does later this year, Coleman Hell has already made a small mark on the music world with "2 Heads," which really doesn't sound like any of the rest of his music. The song has an assurance the rest of the tracks don't, as if Hell has discovered his sound and it won't be readily apparent from what his EPs represent.
For those who can't really stand house music or EDM in general, Hell might still have something to offer. His vocals are tight and his lyrics are only improving, so it is definitely worth paying attention to this quickly developing artist.
Saturday, Feb. 13. 8:30 p.m.
WinterFest, 344 Shevlin-Hixon Dr., Bend
WinterFest admission $10 adv., $12 door