Artist: These Hearts
Album: Forever Ended Yesterday
Somehow, it feels inappropriate to be sitting writing this in a t-shirt that reads “music is our weapon.” Well, not this kind of insipid, pointless, reconstituted and non-threatening music, no. I don’t get bands like this – do they deliberately set out to sound this trite, or does it just happen somewhere in the writing process? Did they cough every now and then, the resulting rupture in continuity causing the stuttering guitars throughout? Did they really want to join a saturated, overplayed genre as it is by sounding hideously banal and unoriginal?
OK, I’m getting carried away now. But really, it just becomes tiresome to hear so many albums that sound like recycled scene fodder. It’s clear the band made a valiant effort, but there’s just no imagination here. The vocals are truly awful throughout, which doesn’t exactly endear one immediately, and with the lack of compensatory instrumentation it’s a death knell.
Indeed, the first thing I’ve noted for “Apology Rejected” is “eleven tracks of these vocals is going to be fun.” Said vocals are extremely high-pitched, almost interstellar, grating and irksome. Interspersed nauseatingly through lots of faux hardcore breakdowns, it sort of feels like a nursery rhyme gone wrong. “Quitting While You’re Behind” makes some pleasing guitar thrills as it opens, imitating sparks over the undulating base, though this contrast is immediately drowned out when singer Ryan Saunders starts hitting some truly terrifying notes. His voice sounds forced and uncomfortable, and the sheer randomness of the gang vocals that make a sudden appearance shortly thereafter is just too weird to take seriously. The song feels shoddy, uncontrolled, and messy.
“Denial Is Not Just A River in Egypt” had me scrambling to double check how many vocalists These Hearts have, and apparently, it’s just the one, with backing vocals from guitarist Kyle Colby. Well, whoever’s doing what, someone needs to pick one thing and stick to it. The sporadic darts from high-pitched whining to imitation growling to relatively straightforward clean singing is alarming. Also, the music is dull – rhythmically, it’s inconsistent, and this on top of the unstable vocals is too much to handle. If they’re going to experiment, they need to make at least one background element constant, or else it comes out as an untamed mass of noise. Write “song structure” on a post-it on the mixing desk next time.
As the album progresses, it becomes increasingly evident that These Hearts found one particular sound – staccato – and decided to roll with it. Nearly all of the tracks on the album are a fragmented version of the same spluttering song, with varying degrees of vocal intensity spread thickly on top. “Romans 15” has no rhythmic impetus to keep one interested past the ill-advised layered harmonising, thereby squandering the slightly more mature sound with which it opens. “Live to the Points of Tears” uses the same basic formula, though it does have some degree of momentum underneath. Later on, “Dime A Dozen” recycles the whole charade to end proceedings on a horribly trivial note.
The above notwithstanding, I should make note of a few bright points. “Forever Ended Yesterday” underplays its vocals and its gradual descent into a likeable grunting/guitar interplay earns it some credentials. The timing is quite neatly done, so it remains fairly catchy throughout. “Are You Mad?” takes two perfectly everyday things and combines them to make itself appealing – brevity, and a piano. A touch of pensive keys at the beginning of this song is inspired, lending it a lovely intangible quality before the eventual retreat behind a wall of maddening vocals and erratic guitars. “Thinking In Terms of Two” – pregnancy manual-style title aside – isn’t bad either. It’s slow and acoustic, aiming for atmosphere instead of emphasis for once. The lyrics plunge into the mire on occasion, but the sentiment is quite endearing. A female vocalist joins the fray and adds a certain touch of the exquisite to the track, though it doesn’t always work. As a whole, it’s not particularly engaging or interesting, but compared to most of the others it won’t harrow you with despair.
So, alas, These Hearts and I did not get along. They certainly know what they want to sound like, and make some admirable efforts, but it’s not anything that I’d be welcoming into my speakers anytime soon. They’re lightweight and lucrative and sure to delight the legions of scene children, but if you want any depth or spark to your music, skip on by.
Review written by: Grace Duffy