A Gritty Musical Journey
Mexico City’s rising noise-pop group Howless releases their first album To Repel Ghosts, consisting of8 varying and colorful tracks that put the group on the map. In it, the group tackles ideas such as consciousness, toxic relationships and hysteria by using electronic and heavier rock elements mixed in throughout. Each song is able to stand out with very original and mature themes both musically and texturally as well.
The opening track on the album, “Fade out,” ironically starts out with a bang. The song creates an atmosphere that the Latin group often follows for the rest of the songs on the album. With a repetitious and growing chant with muffled vocals behind, the song creates an immediate hook to keep listeners engaged. The entire album itself takes the listener on a musical journey by creating a dreamy atmosphere immediately on its first track.
The singles released are particular standouts for the album, with the most popular song as of now being “Levels.” This track, unlike the others on the album, is airy in instrumentation and feels closer to a lighter indie rock feel than the harder, voice pop or rock themes on the rest of the album. This is because of the emphasis on the echoing aspects of the harmonies along with the softer percussion, arpeggiated synthesizers and velvety guitar timbre.
“Levels” is the least ‘intense’ song on the album, however, this makes it a standout and different from the rest. Although the song sounds more cheery or upbeat at first glance, the lyricism is where this song shines. It discusses the uncertainty in a relationship, writing on the lack of communication and trust between the other person. The main melody is repeated over and over, “What do you feel?” There are also themes of self-sabotage and staying in toxic relationships that are destructive in the end. The second verse discusses this with wonderful word choice, saying, “This must be the place. Read my eyes, feel the atomic energy. Hold my door, please. Burn my heartbeat.” The wonderful word choice and lyricism can be traced back to the work of Dominique Sánchez and Mauricio Tinajero.
Another single that makes its mark on the album is “Rain and Ice.” With the more central heavier rock and pop elements integrated into the track, the song itself is interwoven with silky vocals and a beautiful and catchy chorus to match. The song is dreamy and gives this feeling with the mixed synth of a moody and dark atmosphere. What makes this song different from the others is its catchy beat and heavy-hitting percussion. The song during the bridge and riffs is able to play with the atmospheric undertones and create a really interesting sound. It was an easy choice as a single and is a great representation of Howless as a whole.
Overall, To Repel Ghosts is a strong and unique first release to Howless’s lineup. It definitely puts this group on the map as newly emerging artists to be watched for future releases. With the way Sánchez and Tinajero are able to craft witty lyricism that tackles darker topics to the original darker synth and rock instrumentals, this album leaves an impact long after listening. One can tell that lots of thought and passion were put behind every chord and word. It surely is an incredible debut album for this up-and-coming band.