I must admit, my first reaction to Eveningland was quite similar to the reviewer below - what I heard at first was, most certainly, not the Hem that I had fallen in love with on Rabbit Songs, and I wondered what had happened to the band I knew so well. What? An orchestra? Drums?? It didn't take too many listens, though, to begin to hear what I'm now convinced is one of the most exciting albums of the year. The songwriting is utterly beautiful and filled with a cautious hope, and Sally's voice is, to my ears, measurably stronger and more exciting than on their debut. I don't hear her "covering" anything up, but hear her exploring new territory with real confidence. And I freely confess, it's not that the arrangements never come off as a little odd, but rather that I've quickly learned how rewarding it is to follow Hem to whatever new places they go on Eveningland, odd or not.
This is a rare kind of record: one that sets a bold and beautiful course, and I would recommend it to anyone without hesitation. Hem have something really special here.
And PS: Tracks 9 and 16 are indeed thematically linked, but I see nothing wrong in that (and neither have countless composers who have come before). It's cool, actually, in that it weaves a recognizable thread into the fabric of the album as a whole.