Local Love: Brand New Hearts
Photo: Jeremy Krimmel
Years back when Lenny Kravitz sang that “Rock N’ Roll Is Dead,” it felt like something tongue in cheek. But if you talk to record industry executives, they act like the genre is going the way of the buffalo. But, the reality is that these things have been said before, and rock has always found a way to survive. Look at bands like Foo Fighters or Weezer, though the latter has never been the same since Matt Sharp left. When I look around at the music industry today, the bands I see filling stadiums are still rock bands, so I actually don’t know what these executives are speaking of. When I look around Houston, I still see plenty of viable rock bands; and primarily solid rock bands really. Houston’s Brand New Hearts is one of those viable rock bands that seems to do things their own way while forging ahead with pure rock n’ roll in their veins. Recently the four piece dropped their debut full length album, “Brand New Hearts,” that takes the elements from rock’s past, rock’s present, and rock’s future to create a sound that’s as familiar sounding as it is refreshing. And after tapping the well respected name of Rodney Mills, what you’re left with is an album that represents the notion that rock music isn’t going away anytime soon.
The band has no problem starting things off with the hook heavy and chunky riffed sounds of “Dirty Windows.” The way that the bass and the drums lay the groundwork for all of the melody that the two guitars create is something I often forget can exist in music. The tremolo on the guitar while the other guitar riffs up and down the fingerboard makes you wonder why listeners aren’t getting more of this in today’s music. The lyrics of “wash your life like it’s a dirty window,” tell a story that just won’t get understood because you’re relishing too much in the rock elements of the song. The sing song backing “whoa oh oh’s” just add to the allure of the track while the band pulls you in with each and every note. The same can be said on the following song, “Run Like Hell” where the little squeals that hop on and off the track come in like memories of when bands turned their amps up to eleven. The drums hit like you want drums to hit while the band collectively adds little gems all over the song. There are moments where I wished that bands like Weezer would make songs like this again where the vocals create their own point and no one in the band is trying to do things for themselves. There’s even a nice guitar solo that echoes the days of when guitarists stood back to back and went off on little musical journeys together.
Around the third track, you realize that one of the strong points of the band is how they start songs off. On “Details” they lull you into a place where you think they’ll kick the track off one way, only to go another direction. Making one of the many standouts of the album, that opening finds its way on and off the track while always being an inclusive element that never strays from the tone of the song. That super cool and deferred opening is on the fourth song, “Cut To The Chase” as well. There’s these ear catching dual guitars open things up where the band finds a way to give you a taste of rock’s sordid past while gearing you up for a highly melodic tune that never lets you down. If rock radio didn’t have their heads in the clouds nowadays, this is the song they’d be playing on repeat. The build up to the chorus brings in dual vocals just before adding those double guitars again that should make you realize that while the band reminds you of seventies acts, the dual guitar solo is something that rarely ever happens with such grace and precision on a recent Houston release. However, it works on the song while these guys just rock out and make it all sound easy to do, while dropping another stand out. Those two guitars come in handy on the fifth track, “Play Dead” where Brand New Hearts make you reminisce of the days when bands just played unabashed rock music. Though the varying guitar hooks are at pretty much every turn, the song ends before you can get too involved with it. The song definitely holds your attention like catching eyes with someone across a crowded room.
The four piece takes a little slower approach on the sixth song, “What’s So Funny,” as well as the seventh song, “Take What You’re After.” Though neither disappoint as the distorted guitars and perfectly placed drums are still all over both tracks. The longest song of the entire album, “Pity Party” comes in as another stand out of the total on the album. Though they elect to start off one way and go another, the chorus is so catchy that I found myself singing it days after the first listen. It’s also a song I heard early on at one of Brand New Hearts’ live shows; and they really took it in the best plausible direction in the studio. The energy level is right where you want it while all four members tear through your feelings on rock music with an intense yet still melodic soundscape that they continuously recraft. Things get a little more sonic on the ninth song, “Burn It Down,” where there’s a more experimental opening from the four piece. When the vocals come in, that opening gets tossed for a more guitar heavy tone. The way in which the guitars really stretch out with effects while still keeping the pace in that rocking tone is something of pure musical genius. They close out the release with a song that’s more the band’s overall style with “Conquering Confusion,” where lead singer Nathan Parsons is more raw and open than on any of the other tracks.
The overall result is a coupling of ten songs that really put the rock n’ roll genre back in the forefront. The way in which these four add melody, riffs, and continuous hooks into pretty much every track just shows what level they’re on as a band. The album that comes together with straightforward production and top notch mastering conveys what anyone knows that’s seen the band live, that they’re high energy and tighter than most bands performing today. The fact that I couldn’t stop listening to it, the fact that the drums come in where they’re supposed to for each track, and because the band puts the melodies and hooks in where they belong makes this one of the better rock albums I’ve heard in a long time. You can get your own copy of the album as well as watch these guys masterfully mow down an audience with melody and tone, when Brand New Hearts holds a release party on Saturday September 5th at Rudyard’s. The show will host Far Out, A Sundae Drive, and The Ex-Optimists, and the album will be released through Sinkhole Records.