Review Summary: Getting out of an album what you put into itBlood Harmony
had me hooked before I heard a single song. Months ago, while perusing upcoming album releases, I noticed the artwork for this Dave Hause album and I immediately warmed up to it. There's something about it that feels homely, as if I'm a kid again running through my parents' old backyard with my brother. I've always had a soft spot for music that appeals to nostalgia, be it emotionally or literally/aesthetically. In this case, one look at Blood Harmony
's cover was all I needed to know that somehow, some way, this Dave Hause guy and I would be on a similar wavelength.
Almost serendipitously, it turns out that Hause has a two-and-a-half year old son – two
of them actually (twins, eek!) – and I have a son of the same age as well as a newborn. All of this probably sounds pretty circuitous with regard to the album at hand, but I guess the argument I'm hoping to make here – and one that I suppose should pretty much go without saying at this point – is that music is so largely a product of one's unique experiences and perceptions that the quality of music at-hand, provided it's not awful, almost takes a back seat to what the listener wants to extract from the experience. In this case, I was hoping for a pretty cozy record with personal lyrics about either fatherhood or childhood nostalgia; perhaps it's my own biased perceptions talking, but Blood Harmony
is an absolute intersection of fate.
Dad life changes a man. So many of the things I cared about three years ago are now long lost dreams, especially trivial items or the pursuit of selfish, time-consuming hobbies. That's why it's so easy to relate to lines like this one from 'Northstar': "Now you are my Northstar / I'm tradin' in my gun and my fast car / For a couple of college fund tip jars." Big lifestyle changes like parenthood also cause you to reflect more than ever, looking back at your own childhood memories – the good, the bad, and if you're truly lucky the magical – and striving to do everything you can to recreate your best memories for your children. That's a chord that immediately struck me on 'Sandy Sheets', a song that recollects moments from Hause's vacations during his youth: "We were wild in the Jersey heat / You had Hey Jealousy on repeat / We’d hide out on the beach." The fact that Hause sounds a lot like Robin Wilson from Gin Blossoms (or that this particular song almost sounds like a shameless emulation of any of the band's songs) isn't lost on me – nor is it on Hause as he name checks the band in the lyrics – but again there's a feeling of mutual overlap as I remember playing that exact song (along with the entire album, Dusted
) on repeat during summers growing up in the 90s while also spending a lot of time across New Jersey's many beaches. Plenty of people listened to Gin Blossoms in the 90s and went to the shore, but that's what makes Blood Harmony
such an easy album to relate to both lyrically and musically. The record sounds like it was transposed from a simpler time, and in many ways that's comforting – especially when you find yourself in your parents' shoes and wondering where the last thirty years of your life went.
is sort of an alt-rock album, but it's also got a lot of folk and country influences running through its veins. The predominant acoustics, occasional slide guitar, subtle pianos, and sparsely used strings all give this a rootsy, organic aura that is easy to embrace as emotionally warm/proximal. I'm admittedly not overly familiar with Hause as an artist, so maybe a lot of this is by design and I'm just falling into a marketing trap – but the sincerity of the music and lyrics, which truly seem like they were written with earnestness and love – allow me to lower my guard. The ideas here are far from poetic – just very down-to-Earth, pedestrian messages. The closer, 'Little Wings', sees Hause opting out
of leaving behind some sort of immortal life lesson, instead deciding to list the things he's not
going to teach his children (a list which includes religiously-driven fear, gender stereotypes, or the idea that parents always have the answer). It's endearing and relatable; an admission that we're all just in this together, equally awestruck by life itself. For not teaching anything specific, that's a pretty damn good lesson.
Don't look to Blood Harmony
for a genre-bending experience. It's not innovative or experimental, instead blending 90s Gin Blossoms core (is that a thing? I'm making it one!) with a little bit of singer-songwriter magic and alt-country flair. But I'm not here for the instrumental prowess or the hipster bragging rights. Blood Harmony
speaks to my memories of the past as well as my hopes for the future. That's not so bad for judging an album by its cover.