Modern Electronica / Ethereal Synth Pop.
With a name like Haerts, you would assume that this band’s music would have an extra emotional component. This expectation is proved true, but not in the expected way. The quartet who hail from Germany, England and the United States, make their self-titled debut album one of worldwide proportions.
The basis for all of their songs is electronic with other elements peppered in. On the opening track, “Heart,” the eighties synth crescendos and is accompanied by a smooth, in-the-groove bass line throughout the verses and chorus with a refreshing guitar part in the bridge that adds to its memorability.
This tradition of striking bass and guitar parts continues throughout the album, but is especially evident on their hit single, “Wings.” The addition of these elements gives the song, a certain funk that is not seen in modern pop—with the exception of Pharrell. They never let the more traditional rock elements overpower the electronic, but instead allow them to exist in harmony. The synths and the strings seem like kissing cousins rather than quarreling siblings.
“Hemiplegia” is another example of this. The song has rapid, African-influenced drumming that was popular with artists like Phil Collins in the eighties and combines it with modern synth sounds. It is the ability to meld the warm, personal elements of traditional rock and roll with the electronic instrumentation—often considered too impersonal and cold—seamlessly that sets them apart from their contemporaries like Avicii, who often does not blend, but rather mix the genres.
Another thing that sets Haerts apart from their contemporaries and gives the album a common thread is the vocals. Delivered by German singer Nini Fabi, they are always tasteful and startling. Fabi will sing the verse quietly, as though she is reading to her children at night, then open up in the chorus like a sky during a storm. She does this marvelously on penultimate song, “All The Days.” Her voice sounds as though she is reaching out for a distant planet that only she knows about. She also likes to slide down and up to notes. Similarly, her ability to make one note just as interesting as an R&B diva’s vocal runs recalls the great Karen Carpenter. Also like Carpenter, she has the ability to add inflections to her voice that leave the listener awestruck. This is best heard on the bridge of “Giving Up,” where she really lets the falsetto go and the result is nothing short of beautiful.
The one problem with the album is its lyrics, which at times are juvenile and expected. They are even more disappointing because they do not match the complexities of their compositions. The compositions distract the listener from their lack of lyrical prowess and it also stops the album from being sappy and sentimental. The upbeat electronica makes it so they can produce a song with a refrain that says, “I’m giving up” and make it seem happy.
Nonetheless, there is an otherworldly quality to Haerts and their self-titled debut that many groups don’t have. Maybe it is their ethereal vocals, or the way the mix the traditional with the modern. Whatever it is, it is clear that Haerts has plenty of their namesake.