Show Spotlight: Hovvdy @ Songbyrd Music House, 10/30/19
Today, Ben talks up the virtues of going to see Hovvdy at the Songbyrd Music House on Halloween Eve.
Built to Chill: Austin’s Hovvdy saunters into Songbyrd with new album influenced by Neil Young, Young Thug.
If you’re looking for a less problematic alternative to Pinegrove, you could do worse than Hovvdy, the moody pillowcore project that Austin, Texas duo Will Taylor and Charlie Martin bring to Washington, DC’s Songbyrd Music House (2475 18th St. NW) on Wednesday night. Doors open at 7 PM for this all ages show. Kevin Krauter and Caroline Says are scheduled to open.
Taylor and Martin are currently on tour in support of Hovvdy’s third full-length release, Heavy Lifter, which came out on Double Double Whammy on Oct. 18. The album is “a frothy Y.A. bildungsroman of a record, suspended in the moment between first discovery of love and first brush with heartbreak,” according to Pitchfork’s Peyton Thomas, who added that “the best songs on Heavy Lifter are like dispatches from a cracking cocoon.”
I’m not sure I follow the metaphor, but Heavy Lifter definitely has the wistfulness of the wide open and lonesome spaces that you can pick up in work by artists from Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch to Adult Mom’s Stevie Knipe. These are the songs of creative, sensitive people who spend a lot of time in places where there aren’t many people, let alone other creative, sensitive people, and not many things to do.
Heavy Lifter has the absorbing feel of a long drive through the middle of nowhere with some heavy conversations on your mind — not necessarily bad conversations, but things you legitimately want to mull over as the miles roll by. It’s classic, simple folk rock made with the tools of the 21st century.
Which is interesting, really, because Taylor and Martin can’t rave over today’s pop stars enough in their interviews to promote the new record. Frank Ocean, Charlie XCX, Young Thug, Lil Baby, Gunna — these are not artists that immediately leap to mind when digesting Heavy Lifter. Other notables, like Neil Young, Lucinda Williams, and Townes Van Zandt, whom Taylor and Martin also mention as formative influences, are a little more sonically recognizable, at least.
The pop dynamic is more about freedom from established forms, Taylor explains.
“What changed a lot for me was listening to Blonde by Frank Ocean, and then going on and discovering you and how you approach songs,” he told Dijon in a recent interview with the R&B artist for Talkhouse. “It rearranged in my head the way I view songwriting. It’s not just like, a verse and a chorus and another verse. That’s all one mode, and there’s all kinds of modes. Hearing new music freed me up to worry less about the lyrical narrative.”
The lead single from Heavy Lifter is “Cathedral,” a song that is “dominated by cyclical, strummed guitars reminiscent of Elliott Smith, and then it transforms into a sleepy anthem for late-summer nostalgia,” notes Fader’s Sarah Gooding. “It captures the youthful feeling of infinite time and endless summers, when you stay out with your friends and have zero responsibilities.”
That’s a poignant take, because when you think about endless summers and infinite freedom — generally associated, as Gooding notes, with your teenage years — from the perspective of adulthood, do you see those days as wild, Young Thug-style bangers?
Or do you see them tinged with a hint of melancholy, the joys coupled with regrets, things said and unsaid, hand-in-hand with the knowledge that those days, those people, the person you were back then, are gone forever and never coming back again?
The second one — that’s Hovvdy.
Tickets are available online.