Review Summary: detached and rusted swing from your childhood home.
As a follow up to the burst of limelight received after 2016’s Taster
, the Austin duo have decidedly dimmed the brights a bit. Songs here feel even more vagrant and boundless in structure while the vocals match this sigh of dissolution in delivery. Highlight ‘Petal’ seems to borrow everything from the late Elliott Smith; wistful and airy in vocal inflections while simultaneously recalling chord progressions from The Beatles. It’s a welcome maneuver as the track shines as brightly as a muted leaflet could, leaving the listener with something to hold onto during this mist of detachment and latency. The catch-22 with this record is found within its thematic expression; it pushes a tone of disengagement throughout all four corners of the dusty room Hovvdy reside in. When successful, the tracks run the risk of detaching the listener from the music itself, something that happens every-so-often on this 12-song endeavour. Some will confuse this with boredom, and in their defense a couple of these tracks seem unnecessarily lackluster in melody. ‘Thru’ comes off as an EP-experiment extended a minute too long as the mix of synths merely produce a blurry photograph of greys and silhouettes. Although an album this barren only begets repeated listens, it’s really a matter of whether or not the melodies are convincing enough to latch onto. The ones that prove to be are the most balanced in theme and are consequently stimulating to listen to.
In a sort of ironic twist, ‘Colorful’ is undoubtedly the least saturated song, yet it explores this dissociative mindset with refreshing clarity. Its most passionate whimper even exemplifies this idea, “I saw you clearly then
” -- a flash of an engaging memory that they so desperately attempt to hold onto, putting it on a sort of pedestal comparatively. It’s a slow, dreary build in order to get to this point, however, as the guitar hazily stumbles in front of a muffled drum set over the course of nearly 4 minutes. Cranberry
inhabits the uncertainties and neglections of one’s life for almost the entirety of this album, forcing their listeners to squint in order to see the blips of affianced sparks. Due to this, it’s easy to understand why some would simply just shut their eyes, yet anyone used to a melding of indie folk and slowcore such as this will fathom the reward of keeping them slightly open. Really, this effort is vague enough to conjure up any
nostalgic feeling; it’s the lack of specificity that also hinders any of these emotions from feeling resolute. That’s the intent nonetheless, it’s just that the literal translation doesn’t always prosper.