by Nathan Cardiff
From the quick pacing to the jolting vocals, Hollowtown is a dizzying experience. It’s a thrill ride that spins you around and leaves you struggling to stand on your own. This theme is prevalent throughout the album; loneliness or isolation aren’t your only option, but who can you trust? Is there anyone around you worth a damn or will they betray you? I’ll say this; you can trust Pale Hearts.
Rob Gillaspie’s vocals may be the four-piece’s most distinguishing trait; he yelps, yips, screams, and screeches his way through the nine tracks. Gillaspie has a ton of flair in his live shows, but even on the record his showmanship is grade A. There are moments when you can hear the fire in his belly escaping; his vocal chords seemingly ripping their way through the songs. But Gillaspie also shares the spotlight with the very talented musicians of Pale Hearts. Mike Young’s percussion on “Breakheart Mambo” has a sneer a mile wide; I never thought drumming could have such a snarky attitude. Rod Kemp and Melinda Robinson on guitar and bass, respectively, have this frantic style that still seems moody despite how much pep the songs have. All throughout Hollowtown you want to dance along, but you kind of want to glare at someone from across the room too.
The beauty of this album lies in its split-personality; that chilling snarl from Gillaspie with the jangly guitar makes it sound like a surf/rockabilly nightmare (“They Pass for Human” & “High Plains Disko”). Hollowtown is filled with this terrific aggressive pop, but it’s tough to beat the final track “Moon in the Gutter.” This garage ballad with excellent lyrics like “They’re playing our song again, do you remember it?/It goes, ‘I la-la-la-love you’ or something like that” and “These were the best days of the worst years of my life” has a depressingly romantic core, but it’s also a great grunge song with a crescendo that feels like a lift-off.
Hollowtown is a record with some grime on it; polished and vibrant, but just the right amount of dirty emotion. Pale Hearts have plenty of energy and you can bet it’ll leave you reeling, trying to compose yourself. Your head could be spinning or you’ll lose your balance, but you’ll love every minute of it.
Favorite Tracks: “Motorsports” & “Clockwatchers”
by Nathan Cardiff