Creating the sonic and æsthetic impression that they're roaming the landscapes and seascapes painted on vintage postcards sold for 25 cents apiece in dusty piles near thrift-store cash registers, Colorado-based Candy Claws are shameless themesters.
Even more so than In the Dream of the Sea Life — a conceptual debut full-length on which they used self-recorded oceanic sounds from beaches around the world — Hidden Lands is a dreamland of musical symbolism. Breathy, childish, girl-boy vocals fade and lyrics become incomprehensible beneath a haze of twinkling synths and clever replications of horseshoe clip-clops. It's more than just forests and oceans being simulated here, though. In 10 tracks, the eight-piece band manage to touch on a kitschy range of melodies that evoke carnivals and carousels, Leave It to Beaver–era TV commercials, and taffeta-clogged waltzes.
The result is a very delicate and tuneful sophomore effort, but it's so drenched in gimmickry and conceptual cutesiness that you can't take it seriously, not even as soundtrack music. Unless Candy Claws are looking to foray into the world of Christmas albums, they need to scale back the sugar-coated imagery.