It isn’t a double album built to fit a concept. Haste Make and Hard Hearted Stranger easily stand on their own. You could listen to one or the other first - heck, even mix them together - and still get a similar listening experience.
Musically, Hard Hearted Stranger is a bit more upbeat and uses bowed strings less. That makes sense as the first lyrics on Haste Make are “Easy my mind and climb into bed” while Hard Hearted Stranger starts with “Well I wake up in the morning, try to set my hook.” The differences between the two discs are subtle, but it’s enough to justify two separate albums rather than one 18-song behemoth.
This isn’t a double album because it’s trying to be a mid-career masterpiece or a late-career change of pace. Mandolin Orange had 18 strong songs, so why wait to release them all?
From beginning to end, the whole package is remarkably consistent. Make Haste/Hard Hearted Stranger is paced perfectly and there’s no excess. It takes just over an hour to listen to both discs, but it feels swift. It’s easy to get lost in the pitch-perfect southern gothic tone and beautiful harmonies.
Andrew Marlin’s songwriting is clever, yet simple with a reliance on strong melody. On “Clover Song” Marlin adds a nice bit of text painting by stretching out the word “wither” to reflect the gradual nature of the process. Small touches like this make Mandolin Orange all the more rewarding to listen to.
Double albums can leave many listeners wanting less, but Haste Make/Hard Hearted Stranger leaves the listener wanting more after one disc and then delivers it making for a satisfying experience.
Mandolin Orange will play The Berkeley Cafe in Raleigh on November 11. Haste Make/Hard Hearted Stranger will be officially released on November 8.