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Irish quartet Hal is made up of brothers Paul (vocals/guitar) and Dave Allen (vocals/bass), drummer Paul Hogan, and keyboardist Stephen O'Brien. The Allens' parents were folk musicians and their love of music was imbedded in their sons, Dave playing in bands since his early teens and both of them writing tons of songs together for Hal. The group formed in the early 2000s and began blending their love of classic rock like the Beatles, the Byrds, Harry Nilsson, and the Beach Boys into something all their own. After six months of playing a night a week at the Sugar Club in Dublin, Rough Trade beat out the heavy competition and won the group's signature on a contract. They released their first single, "Worry About the Wind," in March of 2004 and were featured on Rough Trade's excellent 2004 collection The Rough Trade Field Guide to Music, Vol. 1, contributing "Worry About the Wind" and the lovely "Out Tonight." The usual batch of live dates (supporting the likes of Starsailor, Grandaddy, and Doves) followed, as did the recording of a full-length album. With production assistance from ex-Tears for Fears member Ian Stanley, the great Edwyn Collins, and the group itself, 2005's Hal is a masterpiece of bubbling pop music and heartfelt classic ballads equal to any guitar rock of 2005 and just about any other year. ~ Tim Sendra

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