Tweaked, toned and filtered in just the right way, synthesizers can sound like summer. They can be cold and distant, which is precisely the underlying aesthetic of the aptly named “coldwave” movement of the early ’80s. And they can be neutral or atmospheric, oblique qualities espoused by a good many ambient pieces. But in the right hands, those very same instruments, digital or analog, can be used to create an enormous sense of brightness and warmth, evoking a kind of magnanimous hugeness that is undeniable in both Top 40 hit and underground smash alike. It worked splendidly for Kanye West on Graduation, and it most certainly works for Hooray For Earth.
With their new album True Loves, New York quartet Hooray For Earth aim for something lofty and intense, though ultimately pleasant and inviting. It’s an album prominently featuring and built upon layers of synthesizers, but dense and spectacular ones. To the contrary of -wavers both “chill” and “cold,” this is music that aims for something bigger and universal, however nebulous that might seem. On a track such as the outstanding “Sails,” the band wraps an affecting anthem around rapidly firing and flashing keyboards, a sound built for stadiums or warehouse raves, but encapsulated in a tightly crafted pop song. Its embellishments at times suggests late nights under illicit substances, but its overall aesthetic is one of embracing pure joy.
As critically incorrect as it is to call an artist a “Singles band” this day and age, Hooray For Earth certainly has that art down, and most of True Loves is intently focused on well-timed verse/chorus shifts and pristine hooks. The title track is one such perfect example, sputtering on big percussive crashes and reverb-laden reggae chords as ethereal, blissful vocal harmonies soar overhead. Elsewhere, “Last Minute” dabbles in twinkling keyboards and “Be My Baby” drums only to escalate, subtly, into a chorus of arena-sized Tears for Fears-style synth-pop. There’s a cool minor key groove to “No Love,” but whatever subtlety is there is quickly dashed with the introduction of an explosive horn section, and shit subsequently gets real. And the brilliantly gigantic ’80s pop sound of “Bring Us Closer Together” practically demands an adjoining Brat Pack teenage love subplot.
There’s an immediate, hedonistic quality to much of True Loves, but while these songs were certainly a lot of fun on first listen, I found that my fondness for them grew considerably over subsequent listens. And there’s a very good reason for that; there’s a lot of flash and dazzle to these songs, but there are also stellar melodies and stunning arrangements. This album radiates warmth, and while that’s not something I often ask of music, it’s a highly satisfying gift.
Stream: Hooray for Earth – “True Loves”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.