Brand New Hearts, Brand New Hearts
High-five from over here, Brand New Hearts dudes; with your self-titled debut EP, you’ve managed to combine two things I’ve sorely been missing into one awesome-looking/-sounding package: guitar-heavy power-pop and cassette tapes.
To take the latter first, I’ll admit that cassettes are hardly the format of choice for “serious” music lovers, but fuck it — for me, they hit that big red Nostalgia Button, the one in the corner of my heart that’s half-plastered over with tattered band stickers and ticket stubs. I’m good with CDs and vinyl, sure, but as a child of the ’80s, my first real musical acquisitions (aside from that Kinks “Come Dancing” 45 I convinced my mom to let me buy) were all on tapes.
I still have a giant pile of them lurking in the garage, and even now, fully into middle age, I’m loath to let ’em go, even though I bought/got most of them back when my primary concern in life was impressing that cute girl in my Calculus class. Just seeing Brand New Hearts’ new EP, all shrink-wrapped and shiny, immediately threw me backwards in time to those days of my youth when The Music was one of the only things that really mattered.
Of course, the throwback cassette wouldn’t work at all (or would be an “aww, that’s cool” novelty for five minutes at best) if the music on it didn’t measure up, and it most certainly does. Despite the band’s mostly-emo pedigree, the guys in Brand New Hearts — who are former members of Ultramagg, Panic in Detroit, Lucky Motors, and Bright Men of Learning, among others — dig further back in musical time, grabbing hold instead of vintage early-’90s power-pop, the kind with sweet, sweet harmony vocals, sly-smart lyricism, and just-rough-enough guitars, and holy fucking hell is it great to hear.
The five tracks on here bring to mind a whole slew of bands I loved (and still love, honestly) Back in the Day, notably The Posies, Redd Kross, Jellyfish(!), and Sloan, but also more obscure folks like Ultimate Fakebook and — probably more than any other band — Moods for Moderns, who I swear I hear echoes of in “Drive Me Home,” in particular. “When In Rome,” on the other hand, comes off like Sloan on their best freaking day ever, and “Brand New Hearts” sounds like Ken Stringfellow himself wrote it.
Then there’s the crunchier, heavier “Prying Eyes and Dirty Minds,” which is distinctly Replacements-like, and surprise-cover closer “It’s a Shame About Ray,” which sees the band breathing new, fuzzy-edged, respectful life into the classic Lemonheads tune. Believe it or not, ’til this came on the stereo, I’d completely forgotten about the damn song, and yet I suddenly remembered every single word.
And now I feel like I need to run home and break open every album I adored in college and fall in love with ’em all over again; I’ll be listening to Brand New Hearts the whole way there.