Torn Hawk: Let’s Cry and Do Pushups at the Same Time

What are we actually talking about when we talk about nostalgia? Taylor Swift’s Polaroid album cover for 1989? Ghostbusters? The Beatles? Nirvana? Limp Bizkit? Illmatic? Nostalgia is fascinating and infuriating because of how specific it is: my nostalgia is not your nostalgia. But when it’s used correctly and on the right person, it’s an emotional weapon, able to warp hazy memories into strong feelings.

Let’s Cry and Do Pushups at the Same Time is Luke Wyatt’s second album as Torn Hawk this year, and stylistically, it builds directly on the previous release, Through Force of Will. Wyatt’s still playing with the emotional resonance of his own specific memories, and nostalgia is still a primary factor, but it’s tempered by a breathy, new age smoothness that rounds out the jagged edges of his older material.

It’s not quite spa-ready easy listening though. The drums on “Lessons From the Edge” lurch and shuffle under layers of digital murk, like a low-res jpg blown up way too big. Wyatt still loves layering and twisting triumphant guitar lines that are bound to remind you of whatever your favorite movie featuring an underdog coming out on top is, or failing that, a surf magazine from 1989.

But it’s not all triumph. Wyatt skews dark on occasion: “Because of M.A.S.K.” is a neon-lit journey through a dystopian present, and “Return to the Pec Deck” sounds like two different Torn Hawk songs playing at once. It’s unsettling and weirdly funny. Yet it still feels like Wyatt is holding back. Each record he releases brings him closer to facing nostalgia head on: both the nostalgia inherent in the sound of his music, and the nostalgia people that write about his music saddle him with. But how deep does he want to go? Pushups, as dense as it is, is a breezy listen. Easy to play on repeat, and easy to find moments of crystalline beauty that don’t have to mean anything more than what they are. 

Let’s Cry and Do Pushups at the Same Time is often beautiful, and that’s all it really needs to be, but Wyatt’s been plugging away at this sound for long enough that it feels like he’s making a larger point about the way we engage with our own memories of pop culture—or at least questioning them. It’s impossible to tell if he’ll ever come to any conclusion. If he even wants to come to any conclusion, but there are a couple things that are certain: Wyatt’s managed to take something as idiosyncratic as the way pop culture tangles up with our memories of the past and make a universal sound out of it. Ultimately, Wyatt has made a sadly triumphant album that questions how our minds remember what they remember. What will happen when he stops asking and starts answering?

from Album Reviews – Pitchfork