Review Summary: Two up-and-coming hardcore acts make their presence felt with an impressive collaboration
The nature of the split EP is one of an intrinsic bond between the two artists and what they do with it. This bond is what made last year’s La Dispute/Touche Amore split such a successful one. The two groups have undeniably different influences- Touche Amore being more hardcore-punk inclined- yet had notable chemistry on the record. They also produced one of the best split EP’s of 2010, so the formula that they had obviously worked. One can see many similarities between the La Dispute/Touche Amore split in the new Love American/Harbours EP. Love American has more emotional influences while Harbours’ sound harkens back to the early days of hardcore; both EP’s are short efforts yet feel substantial; and both EP’s have a chemistry and flow that highlight both bands’ strengths equally.
The Love American half of the split is the first and they immediately grab your attention with a high energy guitar riff from former bassist Adam Thomas and a pounding drum beat courtesy of Ryan Longmore. Javier Ramirez makes his presence felt soon after and shows us an impressive improvement in variety and tone of his vocals. Perhaps his vocals are at the benefit of superior production- this EP being recorded with an actual producer, unlike their debut effort earlier this year- but Ramirez has obviously made an effort to improve since January. Although his vocals can get a little repetitive, they don’t detract from the quality of the music in the least. This is ultimately because the musical division of the group offers more than enough variance. Thomas pours more riffs into two songs than some hardcore bands use in an entire album. Longmore, although he is the backbone of the music, also throws in some variation and displays impressive command of his drum kit- particularly of the cymbals. Both Love American tracks stand out, Kayfabe in particular, as the best songs on the EP.
But the early success of Love American doesn’t detract from the second half of the split. Harbours is a more established band, having released an EP and a demo already this year, and their sound is ultimately a little more refined than Love American’s. This is rather ironic, as they tend more towards the Touche Amore side of the spectrum: complete with raw energy and more aggressive vocals. Screamer Matt Gutierrez’s vocals are quite excellent, and he stands out from the rest of his band as the star of the show. The guitars are, unfortunately, rather standard. Raymondo Bolado’s riffs pale in comparison to Thomas’- which should be expected, given their different inclinations- but they’re often little more than palm-muted power chords. This certainly gives the tracks some additional punch, but it’s disappointing to hear seven minutes of the relatively samey guitar work. The drums stand out as the highlight of Harbours’ music, with fill-in drummer Anthony Guerrero holding down a rhythm section that sounds almost entirely devoid of bass guitar. Although the music might not measure up to the first half, Harbours still makes a varied, entertaining listen through the sheer power of the instruments and the aggressiveness of Gutierrez’s voice.
Despite their slight shortcomings, Harbours still proves to be the perfect complement to Love American; the EP is ultimately one of the better splits to come out in the past couple years. The apparent chemistry between the two bands shines through and creates a complete, refined soundscape of the perfect length and balance. Although there is one portion of the EP that stands as better than the other, it’s in subtle enough ways that neither does Love American stand too tall over Harbours nor does Harbours sound out of place or severely lacking. This split seems to conclude that these two bands have bright futures ahead of them; futures that could ultimately lead them to a record deal and beyond.