Heartsounds - Drifter
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Record Label: Epitaph
drift·er (n) – One that drifts, especially a person who moves aimlessly from place to place or from job to job.
When I did a bit of research on Heartsounds, the first thing I found was that the band is comprised of Ben Murray and Laura Nichols – two former members of a now-defunct metalcore band called Light This City. Sure, this is old news for most, but the only past experience I’ve had with the band was a few casual spins of their debut, Until We Surrender. Before my first complete spin of Drifter – the new full-length from the band on Epitaph Records – I realized I probably overlooked this band at first.
After revisiting that old work for a bit, I came back to Drifter and it’s safe to say that Heartsounds have raised the bar here. As their popularity has grown since transitioning from the metalcore scene to punk music, Heartsounds has responded with increasingly impressive songwriting. Most noticeable at first is the call-and-return action between Murray’s slightly gritty vocals and Nichols’ more smooth, relieving lines. Songs like the opening “Every Second Counts” reveal a fantastic cohesiveness, while less surprising is the intricate technicality from the musicianship standpoint, exemplified best on songs like “Unconditional” and “Race To The Bottom.” Not many things are more refreshing than a kick-ass guitar solo in a punk song, so Murray’s skill on the guitar is impressive right away.
The call-and-return vocals frequently contrast the fiery musicianship and the result is, to put it lightly, a huge success. Perhaps that’s where the name Drifter comes from; this band came from a completely different genre, and they still wander all over the punk soundscape by tweaking an often-duplicated formula. Drifter echoes the stylings of instrumentally proficient punk bands before Heartsounds – comparisons to A Wilhelm Scream will abound, while the group would fit in along with The Swellers (My Everest-era) and Half Hearted Hero as well.
Nichols shines throughout the album – “Echo” is a memorable example of her vocal work – and her consistent performance provides Drifter with the necessary accessibility to gain this band an even greater following. With how well Nichols and Murray work together, it’s a shame to think Nichols’ vocals were once reduced to growls in Light This City. The band makes it an obvious point to play to its strengths, and a noticeable strength is the musicianship. Large instrumental breaks litter the record, including the outro of closer “Nothing Happens for A Reason,” and it’s enjoyable to just listen to the group jam together.
On “The Song Inside Me,” the opening track from Until We Surrender, Murray sings, “I’ve found my true calling and it’s never sounded so fucking good.” Heartsounds has never sounded so fucking good, and with this band, Murray and Nichols have hopefully decided to make punk rock their permanent residence. As long as they keep making records as good as Drifter, they can stop wandering around, and stay as long as they like.
A Wilhelm Scream comparisons for this band only go so far as the technical guitar work, but other than that--dead-on. Fans of the Swellers and Half-Hearted Hero definitely should take note. Propagandhi, No Use for a Name, Lagwagon, Strung Out, etc. are apt comparisons as well...
But really? Anybody that loves speedy, melodic punk rock should be all over this record.
I really like this record, too, and I hate to admit I didn't even know the second vocalist was a chick - I thought it was just a dude with a fairly high vocal register. She kind of sounds a bit like Jay from the band Sloan with her delivery at times. Nonetheless, this has received quite a few spins on my player lately. Especially love the title track.
I love this record. I'm usually terrible at comps, so it's good to see someone else comparing their guitar work with AWS. Not sure how far this sound is going to go for them, but it's a release I can't get enough of.
I felt like I wanted to go higher, because I love the release, but there's definitely something that's stopping it from being an elite album. There's another gear this band can hit.
Hooks. In my opinion, that's all that's standing between this band and greatness. They have great vocalists, guitarwork that's catchy and technical without being overbearing, solid production, lyrics that are relatable but lacking cheese...Everything that should make a band great, except for hooky choruses. They're catchy, but they don't quite drag you in and hold you there begging for more. If that makes sense.
I thought it was crazy that you hadn't reviewed this album yet.
Good review, this is my runner up for AOTY so far right behind Gospel.
Yeah it took me a while. I have a lot on my plate right now, working at Paper + Plastick kinda takes priority over AP.net most of the time. Hopefully I can still keep up a steady output even with school starting, though.