No hard feelings but…
Music critics, on the whole, overvalue novelty. There’s plenty of reason to do this, but it mostly stems from wanting to be the person who discovers the next big sound or artist. That, plus critics listen to enough music that everything becomes rote after a while. But not all good music is novel and vice versa. This week, our non-novel entrant into the collective consciousness is Hard Feelings’ self-titled record, Hard Feelings. Unfortunately for the band, and our everlasting search for the next great album, its lack of novelty doesn’t add anything to the overall quality of the record.
The first thing that catches people’s ear on the record, aside from an “I’ve heard this before” type beat, is the lead singer weaving her way through “Love Scenes.” Unfortunately, the next thing people notice is how far they are reaching to make the song interesting and how little it’s working. Amy Douglas, the lead singer, operates in a low, husky register throughout this song and much of the record, and it never quite sounds like a comfortable space. As a result, many of the songs on the record seem as though they were written for a different singer. Even if they weren’t, the late ’80s/early ’90s beats are about as by the numbers as they come.
“Dangerous” has the ignoble task of salvaging a weak opener, and while the beat is more interesting, it’s still fairly predictable. Any forward strides made in the vocal and instrumental department are offset by uninspired lyrics. Most of the song consists of the word “dangerous” and occasional references to “candy-coated kisses.” The track leans into the “my attraction to you is dangerous” trope, but in a way that feels tired and half-considered rather than impassioned or novel in any way.
There are a few things to like on the album, though. For instance, “Running Out Of Time” has a compelling and propulsive beat that is also the shortest on the record (though only by two seconds). The lyrics are more interesting as well, with lines like “you walked like a ghost, you lived in every room, you cut me clean in two.” The lyrics are both symbolic and evocative, and overall more effective than the lyrics that populate a majority of the rest of the album. “Holding On Too Long” also stands out on the tracklist. While it doesn’t have the same urgent compulsion of “Running Out Of Time,” it manages to remain fairly interesting both melodically and rhythmically when compared to other songs on this album.
It’s a shame when one can feel an album taming its ambitions to execute well and then failing to do perfect execution. Unfortunately, Hard Feelings’ Hard Feelings is just not all that engaging from any standpoint. It sounds like dozens of pop albums from the late ’80s and early ’90s but lacks the retro kitsch or clever references that most modern bands would attempt. And while shooting straight can be an effective strategy, this time, it’s just rehashed an era of music that, frankly, wasn’t that compelling to start.