Hello Shark: Isolation Drills

Philly’s Hello Shark explores the dark sea of loneliness

Delicate is a fitting title for the new Hello Shark album. Lincoln Halloran, the group’s songwriter, singer and bandleader, seldom raises his voice above a whisper, choosing to deliver his confessional lyrics with a restrained presence that adds an emotional tension to his tales of isolation and heartbreak. His guitar playing is minimalistic, but his chiming tones perfectly complement the icy emotional terrain he describes: a bleak world of loneliness and missed connections.

“I’m not a very good guitar player,” Halloran says modestly. “I can write decent guitar parts, but I’m strongest in the lyrics. The musicianship is pretty basic, and it takes me a lot longer to write guitar parts than to come up with good lyrics.”

The album’s arrangements are stripped down and folky, keeping the emphasis on the words and the emotions they convey. “They’re almost journal entries set to music,” he says. “If something pops into my head, I make a note of it on my phone, or maybe sing it into a voice memo. When I write, I go through the notebooks and try to structure something out of sentences and melodies I put down. I’m pretty much a verse/chorus writer, but if I get one good verse, I don’t add a second half-assed verse, or a chorus, to make the song longer.”

Halloran grew up in Newburyport, Mass., a fishing village with a small sadcore scene, but he didn’t become interested in performing until he moved to Vermont for college. “I had a friend with a four-track recorder,” he says. “I started recording cover songs, and that got me interested in songwriting.” He put out a CD-R to sell at shows and started building an audience. Three years ago, he moved to Philadelphia.

“Philly’s been good to me,” he says. “I have a lot of friends in bands, and it’s centrally located, so I can make weekend trips to play in New York, D.C. and Baltimore.”

—j. poet