The duo out of Austin, Texas known as Hovvdy (pronounced “Howdy”) has come a long way since recording vocals with iPhone memos for parts of their first EP. Will Taylor and Charlie Martin have been playing music together since late 2014, and were picked up by the label Double Double Whammy after the release of their first full length, Taster, which originally came out in 2016. The album featured plenty of minimal, relaxed melodies that were filled out with layers of easy-going guitar riffs. It was pretty well received by critics, though the band mostly flew under the radar. On February 9th, 2018, the two released their second album, Cranberry. The album is 12 tracks of warm, atmospheric indie rock that boast vivid textures and subtle complexities.
Both members of Hovvdy were originally drummers, and they’ve expressed that the majority of their songwriting is primarily focused on rhythm while the rest falls into place. “The rest” referring to a blend of guitars and synthesizers with either member delivering soothing, unhurried lo-fi vocals. These vocals are what start the record and draw the listener in on the opening track “Brave.” After just a few lines the song slowly breaks into a hazy, melodic swirl that sets the tone for the whole album. The second track, aptly titled “In the Sun,” is a warm and catchy standout that is essential for any relaxed summer playlist. The same could be said for a few different songs on this album, especially the lead single “Petal.” The song is one of the best examples of Hovvdy’s command of melody, as the varied sounds that make up the track are clear and distinguishable without sounding busy or unnecessary. Showcasing this ability isn’t really what Cranberry is about though. Drums aren’t always the focal point as they’re nowhere to be found on the title track or on the instrumental “Tub.” They barely register on one of the most poignant and memorable songs on the album “Colorful.” Hovvdy doesn’t rely on their rhythmic instincts to create songs, but instead use it as a tool to organize and bring attention to the sounds they’re creating and the feelings they’re trying to convey.
Artists can often get lost in trying to make their work as atmospheric and textured as possible. This ambition can lead to songs and albums feeling like a jumbled messes of sounds and moods with little coherence. The skills Will Taylor and Charlie Martin bring to the table allow them to put these sounds and moods together like pieces of a puzzle. As a body of work, Cranberry shows Hovvdy at their most focused and confident, and is a perfect soundtrack for the lulls in action during spring and summer.
Recommended If You Like: (Sandy) Alex G, Lomelda, Soccer Mommy
Recommended Tracks: 1 (Brave), 2 (In the Sun), 4 (Petal), 6 (Late), 8 (Float)
Do Not Play: None