Theo Katzman’s Achy Breaky Heart
With a new year comes new music! This month, Los Angeles based singer/songwriter Theo Katzman blessed music fans with a new solo album. The multi-instrumentalist found time between his other projects, which include writing songs for various artists and playing with funk band Vulfpeck, to release a new album titled Heartbreak Hits. Talk about starting the new year on a high note!
Heartbreak Hits follows 2011’s Romance Without Finance, making it Katzman’s sophomore album and first full-length in over five years. As the title might suggest, the album takes an honest and quirky look at the topic of breakups and heartache. The latter is usually romanticized in pop music, but Katzman gives us a modern take on breakups. His use of humor and satire show us that it’s okay, and even human, to be resentful or regretful after a breakup. He weaves these themes of loss and despair with his exceptional songwriting skills.
Heartbreak Hits offers strong tones of an indie rock album with major pop appeal. Katzman also borrows elements from funk, rock, R&B and soul to create a work that has something for everyone. The album maintains a certain dichotomy. While it revolves around heartache, the catchy melodies make it listenable in any mood. It’ll make some revisit their worst breakup, yet it’s nearly impossible not to shake your head and sing along.
The opening track, “Hard Work,” starts with a hard, bluesy guitar riff reminiscent of southern rock. Katzman’s emotionally-charged vocals lead us through the all too familiar tale of a hopeless romantic who offers a woman all his time and energy to get nothing in return. He sings, “I caught your teardrops with my shoulder when you cried, I called in sick so I could comfort you all night.” Unfortunately, all the “hard work” wasn’t enough to win the love of the girl he fancied. In his frustration he asks, “If it’s true that you get what you deserve, then why?” Good question, but I guess there’s truth in the saying “we want what we can’t have.”
One of Heartbreak Hits‘ most ear-catching songs was “Break Up Together.” It’s a really smooth track, featuring a jazzy acoustic guitar, soft keyboards and Katzman’s lustrous voice. It seems as if his defense mechanism is humor, which allows his comedic songwriting style to truly shine on this track. He sings, “We used to make love together, but now we breakup together.” He pokes at the fact that before he and his significant other used to share everything – from toothpaste to laughs – and now the only thing they share is their post-breakup grief. And as if the foot-tapping melodies weren’t enough, Katzman tops it off with an exceptionally groovy organ solo, taking a page from the playbook of Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek.
“My 1-Bedroom” takes a departure from the upbeat grooves that characterize the majority of the album. Katzman sings through sparse elements of acoustic guitar, punchy drums and piano. He confesses that he doesn’t have much – hence, the title of the track – but he is open to share his life with a special girl, suggesting that the healing power of love might help them make it through the tough times. Could it be that Katzman is desperate for love or does he merely need help splitting that pricey L.A. rent? Regardless, “My 1-Bedroom” could definitely be the background track for an indie rom-com scene!
Overall, Heartbreak Hits is a solid collection, as Katzman’s unique voice really pulls everything together. However, some tracks do have minor flaws. “My Heart Is Dead,” for example, lacks lyrical substance and “As the Romans Do” has hints of a cliched power-pop track. Although the album covers heartbreak in an enjoyably comical way, it does so in a manner that lacks dimensionality at times. Despite this, there is no denying the fact that Katzman is a talented songwriter that can bend and switch genres with ease. He has the power to weave heavy-hearted themes around catchy melodies and infectious hooks. Maybe you haven’t had a bad breakup in a while but, if by chance you do, you can look forward to listening to Heartbreak Hits to make it through!