There is something so heart-wrenchingly familiar about the feeling of wanting to escape your hometown, to move far away and never look back, and Hovvdy captures this feeling in an exceedingly unique way in their third full-length album, Heavy Lifter. The record is comprised of vivid imagery and particular memories of living in a small town, which only add to the duo’s nostalgic reminiscence of their youth. Although this is a subject commonly addressed in music (listen to literally anything by Lorde), Hovvdy does it in a very innovative way, looking back on their youth with empathy and acceptance rather than with regret or disdain.
While on tour drumming for different bands, Texas natives Charlie Martin and Will Taylor met at a baseball game. Both had collections of original songs intended for solo projects, and in realizing the compatibility of their work, they formed Hovvdy, releasing their debut EP Taster on Bandcamp in 2014. The duo eventually signed with the Brooklyn label Double Double Whammy and re-released Taster in 2017 under this label. They then released Cranberry the following year.
Something Heavy Lifter does well is it doesn’t stray away from Hovvdy’s signature minimalistic sound, maintaining the group’s familiarity and falling somewhere between indie-pop and soft rock. Their music has also been referred to as “pillowcore” and described as the “sonic equivalent of a hug,” which is surprisingly accurate. Similar to previous albums, Hovvdy’s songs are simplistically layered, built upon nothing more than acoustic (and sometimes electric) guitar, vocals, and the occasional drums. Any other additions, such as synth, are purely rhythmic devices. On this topic, Martin stated that he and Taylor “always keep it simple and focus more on the melodies and the songwriting,” which can surely be attested for, as each track on this record is unique. Whether they are good or bad is purely subjective, but each song is it’s own. The album opens with “1999,” presumably a flashback to that very year or, at the very least, a reference to some significant year from the singer’s adolescence but with a catchier title. This opener functions as an establishing shot of sorts for both the theme and atmosphere of the record as a whole, as the singer states, “It’s a small town and we’re going around.” The fourth track, “Cathedral,” addresses another aspect of this atmosphere of this album in which the singer recalls a time from his youth in which he dreamed of leaving, singing, “Maybe never come back here, we could stay with our friends.”
Regardless of their simplicity, whether that be lyrically or musically, each track tells a story. From loneliness to the euphoric feeling of first love and eventually heartbreak, this record accounts for very ordinary youthful experiences. It’s seemingly downcast a lot of the time, but it’s still comforting in the fact that it’s familiar; it’s relatable. The album closes with “Sadbury.” The singer recalls his childhood dream of becoming a “baseball star” and later on a memory of calling his mom to tell her he’ll be “moving to the coast,” finally ending with the singer reciting the address of his childhood home.
Through Heavy Lifter, Hovvdy found a distinctive way to explore their memories of who they were and who they dreamed of becoming, packing nostalgic recollections and reflections into 42 minutes. What makes this album special most of all is that it isn’t about escaping their hometown and never looking back. It’s simply about remembering.
Recommended If You Like: Trace Mountains, Frankie Cosmos, Field Medic, Strange Ranger, Snail Mail
Recommended Tracks: 1 (1999), 2 (Mr. Lee), 4 (Cathedral), 10 (Watergun), 12 (Keep It Up)
Do Not Play: 9 (Tools)
Written by Ji Perez on 10/30/2019