Having successfully crafted the pop-punk anthem, Philadelphia-based punk rockers The Loved Ones try out some new threads on their latest effort, Build & Burn. As the title suggests, there is a sense of accomplishment to the idea of creation itself- one that becomes extinct upon its completion, with nothing left to do but to tear it down and start again. It is an ethos perhaps, exemplified by the spirit of more traditional American music: ‘Americana’ in a word. It is no surprise then, that the Loved Ones shred their more pop sensibilities in exchange for a heartfelt dose of the American outback. Their new found terrain is then solidified by their ever-present brand of rock n’ roll; fast-paced guitars, rollicking drum work, and the vocal sneer of great rockers past (one that vocalist Dave Hause emulates to near perfection).
Check in at “The Bridge,” the band’s best effort to date by far- an almost back streets homage to working class existence of struggle, pain, and hardship. The track is surrounded by a healthy helping of up-tempo numbers that gives the album the kind of gate-crashing, no-die mentality you’d like in a rock n’ roll record. Take the woah woah-clad “Sarah’s Game” and the positively bouncy opening of “Pretty Good Year,” as examples of the band’s ability to meld genres together almost seamlessly. If however there was a song on Build & Burn that would best exemplify the Loved Ones’ new Americana tone, it would have to be “Selfish Masquerade.” Its melancholic, downtrodden outlook is very much akin to the beaten, self-degrading nature of some of America’s most heartbroken cowboys, and it seems the song (mid-tempo riffs, beautifully strewn chorus and all) has managed to crunch this sentimentality down to a very succinct 4 minutes. And if there were any doubt of just what the band is about these days, look no further than the honky-tonk attitude of “Louisiana” (with its references to Biloxi, Alabama et al)- if it doesn’t get the giddyup in you going, then nothing will.
While the seemingly dusty visage the album paints isn’t exactly “Born to Run” (or “Jack & Diane” for that matter), it’s a great example of a band extending past their initial boundaries and finding new ground to grow on. There is still a distinct punk ring to it all, and it never quite throws you out on a highway somewhere with nothing but the clothes on your back and a guitar, but it does get you as far as the on-ramp. The Loved Ones haven’t quite written a classic yet, but they’re getting pretty damn close.
(Fat Wreck Chords)
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.