Music Reviews

Hypoluxo Hypoluxo

(Hypoluxo via Flexible Distribution) Rating - 8/10

Amid a tumultuous 2020, Brooklyn-based four-piece Hypoluxo feels the pinch of trying to make ends meets on their third LP. But it's in communicating those daily challenges that they manage to paint a vivid picture of life in the big city, returning to the throbbing post-punk of the early 2000s but with a completely different outlook. Whereas garage-rock revivalists like Interpol and The Strokes once crackled with swaggering cool, full of opportunity and optimism, frontman Samuel Cogen and his cohorts would be content if they at least had a shot at trying to make something out of their lives. It's in the true-to-life vignettes the band presents that we're able to picture the difficulties they might encounter—one street corner to the next.

Though Hypoluxo haven't made a sharp pivot from their two previous efforts, the band's wry, brooding jangle-rock now hits with tight, dynamic shifts and wound-up melodies. They also achieve this in a lean, 28 minutes flat, and they make sure to not waste a single second. "This world feels like a test," Cogen sings over stuttering guitars on Ridden, marked by a sense of exhaustion as he ruminates over the discouragement they felt after being dropped by their former label. Cogen—who once bore a resemblance to The National's Matt Berninger in vocal tone and delivery—shouts and lurches into vigorous sprechgesang on the bouncy, dance-driven cuts Nimble and Shape Ups (performing in perfect sync against lead guitarist Cameron Riordan's intricate guitar work). In both tracks, he ruminates on the recklessness of lost youth and drifting through dead-end jobs with stark specificity, respectively. Hypoluxo is fraught with uncertainty, though dotted with some bright spots of optimism, as the band makes the best of those tough transitions.

Other times, like on the jerky, The Futureheads-meets-late 70s-era XTC Tenderloin, the band's fast-paced rhythm section takes off and never slows its pace as Cogen sets up a darkly absurd, Chuck Palahniuk-like narrative: "Cause you've fallen on the floor turning purple in plan sight/choking in a tenderloin that was cooked just right." And that's just a taste of the many detours Hypoluxo takes, showing a playfulness both musically and thematically that suits their distinct melodic flair. But it's the emotional cracks Cogen opens up, like on the more carefully-paced album centerpiece Shock, that makes their songwriting so beguiling. "There's a change in the air/let the rent come down," he pleads, segueing into a stirring finish that fades out with no imminent resolution. And that's a hard sentiment to debate against, isn't it? It's the minor, yet pronounced, observations Cogen makes that make their stunning breakthrough effort sound timeless and timely—and should get them on their way to paying rent comfortably and on time if, God willing, indie label heads begin to take notice.