“You comfort me, Rosy / You comfort me” are the words murmured blissfully in the chorus of Hovvdy’s ‘True Love’, the first single from their eponymous new album. A declaration of love, and one among many heartfelt and frank lyrics that pepper the duo’s fourth studio album.
The inclusion of more personal songs was an intentional feature of the album, prompted by the band’s producer, Andrew Sarlo, who advised Hovvdy that “The more ‘vibe’ songs got pushed to the back, and… [to] grab the heartfelt songs and focus on those.” You can undoubtedly hear that on tracks like ‘Lake June’, where the stark refrain, “I love you, I love you so much” puts lyrics and bare emotion at the forefront. The themes of the album are not only love; we see the band explore the relationships with their estranged family as well in ‘One Bottle’, ‘GSM’ and ‘Blindsided’.
That isn’t to say that the Hovvdy have abandoned the ‘vibe’ that attracted me when I first listened to Cranberry in 2018. In the past and at their best, listening to Hovvdy is like stumbling quarter-cut through an old memory. That lo-fi, slack-rock is still the core of their sound. Sarlo may have helped them get the most out of their compositions, but most of the prominent features, the double-tracked vocals that remind me of Elliott Smith and Alex G, the acoustic guitar, lo-fi drums and the sparse pianos and synths are all there in the mix. The perfect example of the Hovvdy sound are songs like ‘True Love’ (where I’d start if you’re a newbie), ‘Sometimes’, ‘I Never Wanna Make You Sad’ and ‘Blindsided’ – simple songs that float along, understated and delivered almost in whispers. The latter, ‘Blindsided’, their latest single, is a slow waltz of acoustic guitars that swells with synths and piano scales in the background that finally fade away back to strummed acoustic guitar.
There are tracks on the album which demonstrate their range in songwriting. ‘Joy’ and ‘Junior Day League’ follow the same groove, but are like off-kilter pop songs, more optimistic in style and sentiment.
What has developed on the new album is the substance of their song-writing to go with the style. As the band said themselves, they used to write “underwater-sounding shit, and the lyrics are super buried, and our moms are pissed-off that they can’t understand what we’re saying. Now it’s more straightforward and confident-sounding.” Undeniably straightforward and confident, yes, but still with the old under-water sounding shit charm.