If at all possible, try listening to HAERTS’ cutting edge synth-pop without immediately wondering what kind of suspect genre gerrymandering resulted in them being “indie.” It’s a more daunting task than usual considering their well-heeled, camera-ready sound or the simple fact that a glance at their Facebook page has contact info for some of the music biz’s heaviest hitters, some of which share the last name of guitarist Garrett Ienner.
But what’s even the point of feigning outrage anymore, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of a year when Candlebox and Live were successfully marketed as an alternative to anything—this is just the 21st century version of selling the drama. But we need to talk about something when we talk about HAERTS and more interesting than their anodyne music is this central paradox—it’s easy to think of thousands of people liking HAERTS and extremely difficult to explain how a single person could love them.
They’re hardly alone in this aspect; they’re not so much a part of a wave than a crest between the retrospectively game-changing, idiosyncratic, helium-voiced future-prog of Passion Pit and MGMT and Chvrches/Haim‘s merger of modernist, personable warmth and fashion mag gloss. HAERTS are indicative of the functional bands that currently fill the rosters of quasi-indies like Downtown, Vagrant, Glassnote, and Neon Gold, and functionality is enhanced by interchangeability—these are usually co-ed groups that look European but sound American (or vice versa), their picture gives you no immediate sense of who does what, on stage they’re structured like rock bands but don’t really put guitars at the center, so let’s just split the difference and call it “indie pop.” And this is the sound of “indie pop” in 2013 and, no that’s not a typo. It’s not just the stylization of HAERTS’ name that already seems dated.
So what does HAERTS give you that Wildcat! Wildcat!, Strange Talk, or their virtual twin St. Lucia (whose Jean-Philip Grobler produces) doesn’t? The main difference is that they’re even more willing to be serviceable towards some unknown, greater purpose. HAERTS aren’t much for sloppy emotions, edge, or humor; while Nini Fabi is occasionally given a booster from an unseen cheerleading chorus, she’s so earnest, so committed to staying out of the way of big hooks, she’s more akin to a middle manager than a frontwoman.
A scroll through HAERTS’ tracklist reveals some serious truth in advertising: “Giving Up”, “Wings”, “Lights Out”, “Call My Name”, “All the Days”. The sentiments are so vague that the placeholder titles offer no assistance in helping you remember which one does the Tango in the Night, which one shines like a midnight sun over “Midnight City”, which one does a shuffling, Chairlift-like ascension, and which one (or several) have the same DNA as “The Mother We Share”.
That said, throw HAERTS on shuffle and it’s uniformly accessible and uniform, period. You will hear a glimmering song about heartbreak that also sounds vaguely motivational. Quote any random lyric and it will also speak of heartbreak while sounding vaguely motivational. Do some WebMD research if you must before encountering “Hemiplegia”; its symptoms sound as mundane and relatable as those of the common cold, no matter how much Fabi tries to impart meaning via repetition to “No you can’t move up with your eyes down.” “Giving Up” echoes the unapologetic breakup austerity of “The Wire”, but keeps its eye on the ball rather than fumbling, which is a problem when a hook like, “I’m giving up/ You say it’s now or never/ I’m giving up/ In time it’s for the better” needs some semblance of human error to resonate.
So, the supposed paradox of HAERTS is actually fairly easy to explain—bands of their ilk respect the craft that goes into pop music and aren’t shy about emulating its crisp, moneyed sound. They’re just shy about risking self-disclosure, anything personal that could be extrapolated into personality. Fabi may have experienced every single thing she sings about here, but you never get a sense of who she actually is or how it felt. Even if HAERTS’ hooks sound like slam dunks in a vacuum, they remind you of arguments as to why the NBA Slam Dunk Contest has become increasingly obsolescent—at this point, it’s just 80s and 90s nostalgia, there’s no room for innovation, no charisma and, most importantly, no realistic context to give it meaning.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1uyRTMQ