Hovvdy Are Growing but Grounded on Their Self-Titled Album

BY Chris GeePublished Apr 26, 2024


When a band well into their career self-titles their album, you know they're trying to make some sort of statement. For Hovvdy, their fifth record marks a decade of musical partnership between longtime friends Charlie Martin and Will Taylor. The 19-song double-album stretches out to represent the many layers and subtle stylistic changes that the duo have settled into over the years, from their early days of fuzzy, bottled-up bedroom pop to their more recent explorations marrying electronic beats with nostalgic, forlorn folk songs.

Since leaving their home state of Texas (Martin is now based in St. Louis, Taylor in Nashville), the two have found themselves busy with the newlywed life, and in the case of Taylor, figuring out parenthood. While their last album True Love was mired in romance and eagerness to start a new chapter, Hovvdy digs deeper and introduces diverging perspectives, noticing that time does not wait for anything and continues moving through the happiest and most unsure moments. Hovvdy's balanced, honest approach allows them to zoom out, resulting in an album that shows an all-encompassing and vulnerable version of themselves.

Hovvdy weaves in and out of all the different styles that the duo have delved into on their past work, broken up by a few sombre piano interludes. Martin strums an acoustic guitar over a simple programmed drumbeat on "Forever," not unlike a sunny '90s radio-rock song, while on songs like "Clean" or "Angel," he dials it back, playing in a hushed manner reminiscent of 2018's lo-fi Cranberry. Not to be outdone, Taylor's tender "Heartstring" is a gorgeous little country song, dressed with some light auto-tune. "Jean" also finds the pair leaning country, speckled with playful piano and an undeniable, bustling energy.

The woozy "Shell" mixes Hovvdy's slowcore roots with Taylor's knack for vibrant pop melodies. Those instincts are intensified even further on the lullaby-like riff on "Every Exchange," which is coloured by a skittering beat and pitch-shifted vocals not unlike techniques in Alex G's wheelhouse. The pattering raindrop electronics are also prominent on the Martin-led "Bubba," about getting through some really hard times with his siblings. Family matters continue to be a theme on "Make Ya Proud" and "Song For Pete," two songs Martin dedicates to his late grandfather. On the former he cries, "Everyone needs a little more time / Goddamn don't we all need more time," something anyone who's lost a close family member would understand. Hovvdy both celebrates the pure, warm love that Martin and Taylor feel in their lives now while facing the difficult realities of loss. Time is too short when we need it most, always slipping away before we can appreciate that we had it.

Martin and Taylor swap roles as main songwriter throughout the album, parallel to the intense bond they share in real, normal life. Through the ups and the downs, the Hovvdy boys have each other's backs. Their undeniable chemistry feels so natural at this point that sometimes you forget you're listening to two distinct voices. On the bright, shuffling "Bad News," their boyish vocals trade off on verses amidst a Pinback-like ultra smooth, hyper rhythmic bassline, where Taylor sings, "'Cause you know my time is all I have / To give up your love for nothing / I won't know why / Til I let you go." It's a direct callback to the melancholic "Til I Let You Know," a song that appears earlier on the album with almost the exact same chorus, except here it feels like Taylor is on the verge of tears during a long drive home. It's a brilliant, yet subtle exercise in perspective and state of mind.

The gentle but firmly supportive songwriting on Hovvdy locates these obscure feelings and illuminates them with different lights. The pair have fully blossomed from their early DIY start, showcasing an incredible range of indie pop craftsmanship and a grounded centredness built on empathy and understanding.

(Arts & Crafts)

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