Band: Have Mercy
Album: The Earth Pushed Back
Label: Topshelf Records
There haven’t been a ton of records I’ve been really excited about this year thus far. I’ve given some high marks in terms of “scoring,” and I think that is partially because there has been a lot of pretty mediocre records coming out of the scene these days, and I’ve lost sight of what truly great really means. Though it may seem strange to admit, some albums I’ve given high marks to earlier in the year may have deserved lower scores in hindsight. Why, you ask? Well, Have Mercy’s debut record, The Earth Pushed Back, is absolutely incredible, and it has reminded me what it’s like to hear a band for the first time and be blown away by their music.
Musically, The Earth Pushed Back is a gorgeous record. The music perfectly encapsulates the overall tone of the lyrics, and that’s a feat that a lot of bands try to accomplish but generally fall somewhat short with. The noodley, darker sounding alt-punk instrumentation has been a standard among bands in the scene these days, but Have Mercy show they know how to work dynamics to effectively create a feeling in their songs. When it needs to be quiet, it gets really soft, but then when that inner turmoil really boils up, the guitars turn up to 11. “This Old Ark” punches you right in the face with guitars, then quickly changes to a really subtle guitar part, then switches into a driving chug. It’s these changes in chord patterns that really keep all the songs dynamic, fresh, and interesting so that songs don’t all sound the same. Sure, there are songs I like more than others, but nothing ever feels lost in the context of the album. The drums do a really fantastic job holding everything together and keeping the record moving along. With this style of music it is really easy to get lost in the guitars, but the drums keep everything in check so you can follow along relatively easy. The single from this record, “Let’s Talk About Your Hair,” is easily one of the strongest tracks on The Earth Pushed Back musically, because of the way every instrument really lends to one another, weather it be the drums, the guitars, or the vocals. I think the production on the record could be a little better in places, but considering Have Mercy is a group relatively new to the scene and I’m sure they didn’t have access to the most world class studios, the record still soars as a debut.
When I first watched their music video for “Let’s Talk About Your Hair,” one of the things that struck me immediately was the absolutely gorgeous singing by Brian Swindle and the rest of the band. All of the vocals blend flawlessly between all the different parts of the songs, and I think that’s the main draw for me as a listener. Generally, really clean, polished singing in these types songs can come across very cheesy, at least to me. I generally like voices to sound a bit more raw because you can hear the feeling better in the songs. Brian moves between absolutely gorgeous clean vocals to more rough around the edges singing almost flawlessly. I can’t help but compare his vocal stylings to that of Jesse Lacey, and while I know it’s super cliché to make a Brand New comparison, I think Brian does a great job of delivering just the right amount of raw energy to specific parts of songs, similar to that of the iconic Brand New frontman. “The Gates” absolutely rips your heart with both lyrics about coming to grips with loss, and a range of vocal stylings that really shows off Brian’s singing abilities. While I can understand some people will get turned off by the fact that The Earth Pushed Back lyrically deals with only the theme of the loss of a loved one, I personally think this is one of the record’s strongest qualities. I think bands a lot of the time sacrifice real emotion to write a variety of different thematic elements into songs so that listeners always have a song that will fit their mood. The Earth Pushed Back dives head first into the complicated feelings of loss. We spend the entirety of the record extricating all the different thoughts that cloud one’s head when you lose someone or something you love. Don’t tell me you can boil down how you feel about someone you love into one song, because then you probably don’t love them as much as you think.
I’ve been a bit more verbose in my review of Have Mercy’s The Earth Pushed Back than I have in my previous reviews because frankly I think this record deserves every inch of praise. I find myself listening to The Earth Pushed Back and I’m still finding new things I love about it. In a scene where things are very surface level and you can digest a record pretty much to the fullest in one listen, Have Mercy is a reminder that you don’t have to be content with mediocrity, let alone praise it. I’m so happy I checked out this release, and right now, The Earth Pushed Back is my record to beat this year.
Written by: Tyler Osborne (Click his name and follow him on Twitter)
Order the record from Topshelf Records here.