Heartsounds – [Album]

Tuesday, 08 June 2010

I know what you're thinking. You're looking at this band's name and wondering to yourself, “Really? Heartsounds? Bad name – is Epitaph still trying to tow some sort of emo line? And that blue-and-green color scheme on the album's cover makes it look like a rejected image from Polar Bear Club's last album and EP! That is so last year!”

Cold or not, that's a reasonable assessment of the surface of Until We Surrender. Heartsounds is a lousy name and the cover of Until We Surrender is trite – but neither is indicative of the dozen songs that comprise the record.

At the opening of “The Song Inside Me,” something about Ben Murray's moderately aggressive melodicism as well as his speedy=but-forceful drums and bass lines (so there's no confusion, Murray is responsible for much of the guitars, bass and drumming that appears on Until We Surrender, as well as half of the vocals) will ring familiar. There is a sort of wounded romance in the singer's voice and wild abandon in the drums that bear a passing similarity to modern melodic hardcore titans like Rise Against  and that works well enough to at least grab the attention of a few listeners, even if it doesn't blaze any new trails. But then, almost out of nowhere, singer guitarist Laura Nichol pipes up on the mic with the words, “but every night I dream the same sounds” which sets the band apart, ironically, and completely changes the game. Suddenly, Heartsounds ceases to be another “pretty okay” melodic hardcore band and becomes something else completely. There's an easy enough way to qualify the vocal interplay between Murray and Nichol – it's the same sort of dynamic that George Pettit, Wade MacNeil and Dallas Green have been using in Alexisonfire for years – but it comes across as more instantly radio ready and anthemic here.

That first surprise sets the precedent, and the rest of the record sees the band refining it, polishing it and winning an ever-greater number of hearts each step of the way.

To be fair, there are moments through songs including “Walking Dead,” “Slave To A Heart That Strays,” “Pinata” and “Our Last Hope” that feel like an incredibly guilty pleasure as Heartsounds bravely includes motifs from aggressive rock and metal (check the intro of “Slave To A Heart That Strays,” for example), but each is redeemed by the greater number of punk songwriting moments played out through the album's run-time. Somehow, the band manages to strike an equal balance of punk, emo and even some classic “singer-songwriter duo” sounds but still come off as sounding like a punk band instead of a muddled mess. It sounds funny to say it, but the album works surprisingly well in spite of the fact that it probably shouldn't and, because that mix is so even, it is possible that the band will draw an audience that is wider and more open-minded than “just a bunch of punks.”

In the end, as “Our Last Hope” gets one last really good shot in before signing off (listeners will find themselves singing lines like “I believe I've been saved not by a God or some twist of fate, but by the songs that we create and the sounds that forever will run through our veins” in the shower – it's almost guaranteed), listeners will be left buzzing on what they've just heard. Lots of punk hybrids have cropped up lately so, without having heard it, it would be easy to dismiss Until We Surrender, and Heartsounds by extension. One listen to the album form beginning to end  will hae you hooked though, and you'll know to never judge so quickly again; it's true that Heartsounds is a bad name, and the cover of Until We Surrender is pretty formulaic – but the music on the album is pretty great and unique.



Heartsounds – “The Song Inside Me” – Until We Surrender


Until We Surrender
comes out on June 15, 2010 through Epitaph Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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