HRVRD - From The Bird's Cage
Record Label: Equal Vision
Release Date: February 19. 2013
It’s no secret that musical similarities and RIYL-driven comparisons can be extremely damning to many rising bands, and unfortunately for HRVRD, this has been quite a formidable hindrance for them in the past few years. Specifically, the constant barrage of a seemingly endless association with genre juggernauts Circa Survive, which somehow always seems to end with the refrain of “They sound like Circa, just not as good,” has to be getting old by this point. Factor in a misnamed torrent of their impressive debut, The Inevitable And I, labeled as “Blue Sky Noise,” and we start to see that these passionate alternative/indie musicians had unintentionally been trapped in a cage—one from which they desperately needed to break free.
HRVRD’s response to this troublesome typecasting comes to us in the form of the appropriately titled From The Bird’s Cage. This thoughtful, well-developed release found HRVRD at a crossroads, where they had the option to either continue developing an already established sound, or they could somehow come into their own and synthesize their own personal strengths with the existing genre. Thankfully, HRVRD chose the latter, and they have pushed themselves to progress greatly, rather than settle, and the result is rather enjoyable.
The band’s strengths lie in their eerie, rhythmic instrumentation and also their vocalist, Jesse Clasen, who has a smooth, but commanding presence on each of the album’s ten tracks. Opening track, “Black Crème,” is such a soft song, but it somehow sounds absolutely huge, with Clasen continuously repeating “This is bigger than you/This is better” and comfortably sliding in and out of a skillful falsetto. It’s almost as if he’s repeating what people have been saying to him since The Inevitable and I, and now he can finally prove just who’s better.
The rhythm section shines throughout the album. Bassist Garrett Leister perfectly accents the drums and drives much of the music, while the guitars take a step back and add more color to the overall sound, rather than lunging for the spotlight. “Kids With Fake Guns” demonstrates some impressive musicianship as the drums pound away a triplet beat, contrasting well with the steady bassline . Much of From The Bird’s Cage relies heavily on the rhythmic subtlety, whether it’s the delicate guitars in “New Information” or the fantastically placed discordant notes in the bridge of “Flaming Creatures.” Interestingly, if the guitars were a bit more distorted here, the section could almost be a breakdown, but HRVRD pulls off this huge, energetic lift without ever having to resort to distortion.
For better or for worse, songs like “Timid Scripts” and “Futurist” still conjure up Circa Survive similarities, the former offering the standard, but well-utilized guitar pull-offs and the latter taking a more conventional approach to songwriting, blasting through an energetic and loud chorus. Still, neither of these songs fall into the same trap of sounding too similar to other bands, as they had in the past. These simpler, more straightforward cuts just feel a bit lacking at times, mainly because the other tracks are so unique. Case in point—the trumpet in “We Never Shut Up About You” and the vocal loops in “Old Nature” are both very interesting inclusions that really seem to separate HRVRD from the others.
The sound that HRVRD created on From The Bird’s Cage is both unique and familiar. It’s light and airy, but still reigned in enough to attract the more conventional listeners. Each individual song has something special about it, but everything flows nicely together, making the album feel complete by the last chords in “Eva Brücke.” HRVRD have come into their own, combining styles and genres and transcending the old conventions on which they previously had relied so heavily. They are no longer a one-sound kind of band, and have offered a wonderfully diverse 2013 release that deserves more attention. Circa who?
I love this review! And I especially love this album!! I agree with you for the most part about the instrumentation, the Leister pretty much does drive all the songs. And I've gotta say that the way the guitars were written, honestly takes me back to their "Animals" ep.