Music Reviews
Heavy Lifter

Hovvdy Heavy Lifter

(Double Double Whammy) Rating - 7/10

Austin duo Hovvdy add a little more ballast to the basket on their third album Heavy Lifter, but still find plenty of air to float around in. Charlie Martin and Will Taylor remain interchangeable parts, supporting each other with drowsy harmonies and deliberately strummed acoustic guitars while also adding in rhythmic synths and modulated vocal effects. Though the shift in approach is subtle, it does add some variety over prior efforts without giving up the pensive nostalgia they peddle so well.

Not surprisingly, the already released singles Cathedral and Mr. Lee display a little more meat on the bones. Mr. Lee is the album’s most upbeat moment, showcasing sandpapery synths and a jaunty piano line in a song about living life alone: "Been a while since he’s seen his friends.” It doesn’t hurt that the chorus sounds more than a bit like Prince’s sentimental Raspberry Beret. The drums that help to power Cathedral press the duo to sing more intentionally over the course of the song. Another album highlight, Watergun, retains a languid pace, but the keyboard and brushed drum shuffle keep the song from drifting away. The song is a quiet prayer for companionship in a world set ablaze, and also the song that the album’s broad-shouldered title derives from.

Things get a bit choppy in the middle with a toy piano tribute to Daniel Johnston (likely recorded before Johnston’s death last month), TellmeI’masinger, that also recalls other wide-eyed composers like Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous. Tools is the most experimental track here, making for a fun listen that spools out into the album’s gentle finish.

The four songs that close out Heavy Lifter are more a close cousin to last year’s Cranberry, and help the latter half of the album settle into a blissful anesthetic groove. The duo’s stock in trade are sharply observed snippets sighted through the fog of memory.  Memories of baseball, buzzcuts, and boxsprings abound. More often than not, a phrase emerges from a song and gives you something to cling on to. Keep It Up is a little livelier than the songs that sandwich it, with the earnest line “We could talk more” becoming its backbone. The lovely Pixie and closing Sudbury are filtered through a sepia-toned lens to an era that was already ripe with color. Martin’s recollection of his boyhood home on the latter is peppered with the specifics of a street number, front yard games of catch, and endless days spent in an I.C.U. waiting room. Though 6310 Sudbury may not mean much to the rest of us, it’s the anchor of where you came from that gives the song its universal pull.

On Heavy Lifter, Martin and Taylor continue to lean on each others’ strengths while also allowing room for pushing out prior boundaries. By expanding the sandbox, Hovvdy open up possibilities that promise more good things to come. If you’ve missed the duo’s prior releases, Heavy Lifter is a good place as any to get on board.