by Kelly Grice // Music Office Member
Austin-based lo-fi duo Hovvdy occupies a special position in the indie sphere, gleaning components from a variety of musical genres. Elements of folk, pop, and electronica come together to produce an often paradoxical sound—elaborate yet minimalistic, technical and thoughtfully curated, but never ostentatious, and somehow all at once droning and melodic.
Although in recent years they have embraced more obvious folk-pop tendencies, their style remains a hybrid, and therefore a fitting and effectual vehicle for articulating hybrid emotions. Their latest album, True Love, is a dream-like rumination on an ending relationship and a reconciliation of complex feelings.
The album’s first track, “Sometimes,” may not pack the punch you’d typically anticipate from an opener—unless you’re familiar with Hovvdy’s catalogue, and then it’s probably exactly what you’d expect: understated instrumentals, characteristically skillful layers and silky vocals, and lyrics as sentimental as they are concise. Lyrically and sonically, it’s a great mood-setter for what’s to come, and can probably only be appreciated as such after listening to the album in full.
The second track and first single off the record, the appropriately named “True Love,” gives crucial context to its melancholic counterparts by traveling back in time to the peak of the relationship which the rest of the album is chronicling the end of. Within its first seconds, it is infectiously catchy, with stream-of-consciousness lyricism verging more on enamored musing than purposeful articulation.
It’s a song about loving a person, but in all its upbeat charisma, it also feels a lot like a song about loving life, which makes it, in the broadest sense of the term, the perfect love song (also the perfect driving-with-the-windows-down song, by the way). Essentially, it’s a homage to the special brand of contentedness that we feel when we take the time to appreciate life’s simple things.
Of course, Hovvdy is no stranger to finding beauty in the mundane. Their previous album Heavy Lifter is saturated with the same small-town romanticism that is featured in tracks like “Around Again,” “One Bottle,” and “You’re the Only One.” These tracks are testaments to the way shared experiences inform our romantic feelings, and also make it difficult to let go of them—how impossible it feels to imagine being separated from someone who you see so much of yourself in.
Dreamy soundscapes, like the ballady, Fog Lake-esque instrumentals in “Lake June” and the gorgeous, undulating piano progressions in “Blindsided” establish an immersive underpinning for Martin’s written nostalgia. On the penultimate “Junior Day League,” when he sings, “Find myself in a reverie,” it is hard not to agree with him.
All this reminiscence should not be mistaken, however, for an inability to move on. Rather, it’s much more indicative of an understanding that the bad cannot be isolated from the good. On “Hue,” when Martin sings, “Lay my joy down with my pain / Feel the sun and chase the rain,” he is relaying the intrinsic relationship between his opposite emotions—there’s grief, sure, but also gratitude, for the experiences which have granted him the ability to feel so deeply. And nothing which suggests that any erasure of the past would be worth the quick and easy end it would bring to his current sorrow. It is the type of sadness that can only come from having experienced immense joy.
Consequently, there’s nothing jarring or out of place about the tonal shift in the first line of the album’s closing track: “Changed my perspective today / Watched it burn away / Said I’m glad to see it go.” After such a period of contemplation and introspection, finishing on a hopeful note really seems like the only logical conclusion. “I Never Wanna Make You Sad” is a song that wholeheartedly believes in the possibility of closure, and that the elation of the past is an attestation to all the goodness that awaits in the “new normal” of the future.
Like much of their discography, True Love showcases Hovvdy’s talent for touching on something universally human. While its subject matter exists in the liminal space between the beginning and end of a relationship, it’s so much more than a breakup album. It’s a reminder that all of our experiences—good and bad—make us up, and that our highs and lows give meaning to one another. Listening to it doesn’t make you feel sad so much as it just makes you feel, hitting you hard in all the softest places.
Learn more about the indie pop duo Hovvdy here on their website!