Published Oct 03, 2018Indie synth-rock duo Nini Fabi and Benny Gebert impressed in 2014 with their debut as Haerts. Fabi's plaintive and soaring vocals earned comparisons to Stevie Nicks; they blended traditional folk/indie rock with just enough electronic flourish to appeal to synthier tastes; and they had great songs to top it off — it was a bit of a gem.
New Compassion frankly lacks the distinctiveness and immediacy of that debut, but it's a solid enough sophomore effort, one that sees the band honing their style and songwriting — even if it means dulling some of their more interesting tendencies in the process.
For one thing, Gebert's vocal contributions do not make a return, and the electronic element has been relegated almost entirely to the background. This leads to a safer, more even-handed sound, but a more forgettable one as well, sliding too easily into sedate, adult-contemporary indie rock territory at times. Viewed through this lens, the album is largely successful — certainly these songs are likable enough. But there was a spark to their debut that's missing here, replaced with calculation. This leads to some well-crafted but unmemorable work.
Fabi's vocals are as bewitching as ever though, and she's given some gorgeous melodies to work with on tracks like "Sign," "Matter," and the excellent "Your Love." The latter, featured prominently on Netflix's teen drama 13 Reasons Why, will likely be the entry point for many younger listeners — which is ironic, given the more mature audience Haerts seems to be courting on the rest of the album. That said, its hook bears a striking resemblance to Paula Cole's "I Don't Want to Wait," which teens of yesteryear will be all-too-familiar with as the iconic theme from Dawson's Creek.
Intentional or not, it's a savvy marketing maneuver verging on the subliminal, and one that will hopefully raise the band's profile, as they're genuinely deserving—even if New Compassion satisfies more than it excites. (Arts & Crafts)