Onstage, the band presents an unassuming dynamic at first: Dulac and Evans almost fade into the background, handling the group's acoustic instrumental work with near detachment. But that's all just as well, because when Tapling opens his mouth it's doubtful you'll be paying much attention to anything else. Tapling's pleading, quavering vocal work has a go-for-broke emotional dynamic that's impossible to ignore, and it doesn't matter if there's a microphone to amplify it. The frontman's formidable pipes easily carry across a small room all on their own. Contorting his face with feeling and hunching his tall, stocky frame forward, Tapling sings each line like it's torn directly from the gut. Vocalists don't come much more impassioned--or committed--than this. And while Tapling commands the spotlight, Dulac and Evans contribute excellent, sometimes intricate work on the banjo and guitar, lending the band's minor-key balladry its fundamental propulsive energy.
The band certainly deserves the comparison to Mumford & Sons and other smash-success folkies; Tapling's voice is an eerie dead ringer for Mumford frontman Marcus Mumford. But where Mumford can seem like a blow-dried, calculated industry attempt to play into the indie folk craze, the Hand in the Ocean feels guileless and earnest. The band's melancholy lyrics come from a place of sincere youthful uncertainty and worry, and each performance from Tapling feels like a genuine act of catharsis. After a handful of dates opening for fellow local folk acts like Match By Match, the Hand in the Ocean's members have certainly proven they've got chops. With a proper album and some headlining dates, it's not unthinkable that this band could garner the following to take "post-folk" to the top of the charts.