Niagara's Heavy Hearts Add to the Canon of Breakup Albums 'Room with a View'
Published Jun 24, 2020Every person is different, and so every relationship is different, and so every breakup is different. So, the ever-popular breakup album comes in many forms. There's the eloquent vulnerability of Joni Mitchell's Blue, the brooding boundary-breaking of Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak, the vengeful bitterness of PJ Harvey's Rid of Me, the glossed-up pain of Lorde's Melodrama, the adolescent snark of Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends — and so on.
In rock music, the breakup album has lent itself reliably well to loud expressions of anger, resentment and betrayal. This is a category in which we find Room with a View, the dynamic second album by Canadian outfit Heavy Hearts.
Dig into the Ontario alt-rock scene and you'll quickly come upon Heavy Hearts. The Niagara foursome have been slogging their way across North America for the better part of the past decade, making their full-length debut in 2016 with Bliss, a chunk of emotive alt-rock in the vein of Armor for Sleep, Balance and Composure and Citizen. They explored further with the On a Chain EP, getting even darker but also finding sneaky ways to sound unique.
Room with a View is an even bigger, even heavier slab of the guitar-driven melodrama found among the band's forebears in the MySpace era. Heavy Hearts meld the anxious post-hardcore of Thrice and Thursday with the post-grunge machismo of Three Days Grace and Thousand Foot Krutch, avoiding many of the traps that — with the potential exception of Thrice — tend to date the work that those artists did during their commercial peaks in the early 2000s.
Room with a View is a loud, tormented record about falling out of love; it's anxious, angry, distraught and even mocking at times. But while these songs are a volatile outlet for hurt, singer-guitarist Justin Glatt approaches them not just with finger-pointing and outward projection, but with vulnerability, reflection and admission of his own flaws. These songs take place in the ghostly realm of broken love and shattered trust. The album weaves between feelings of yearning and contempt the way one falls in and out of sleep, when the brain often uses memories, thoughts and emotions as performers in the theatre of the subconscious mind, only to awake and have the spotlight rudely thrust upon an undesirable reality.
Room with a View explodes with the raw expression of heartache, but Heavy Hearts are just as interested in the underlying, harder-to-parse experience of brokenness. "I hate all the ways that we are the same," Glatt sings in "Vexed," his voice only getting more powerful the more he pushes it. The slow-burning start and explosive finish of "Safe Bet" finds him living inside a memory: "You're in this dream I don't want to wake from / It hurts how much I need your love / I can't stop thinking of what we'll become."
Meanwhile, the instrumentation gives the music the strength and propulsion to carry the emotional weight. Songs like "Out of Reach" and "Dilantin" are built on huge, punchy bass and drums, and they're infused with spiralling, hypnotizing guitar riffs that sound like if Tom Morello was brought in to work with Radiohead. "Kin" builds tension from its urgent cries to "cut and run," layering the overwrought vocal style of Balance and Composure's The Things We Think We're Missing over top of darkly captivating piano and strings reminiscent of A Moon Shaped Pool. Finally, the title track closes the album, not with cathartic intensity, but with a contemplative refrain and a single sentence repeated in whispers — "I don't love you" — its late uttering abruptly ending unfinished, like waking up from a dream to the sudden realization that it's over. (Independent)