Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Hovvdy's self-titled delivers the Texan duo's new evolution


Release date: 26 April 2024
Hovvdy Hovvdy cover
23 April 2024, 09:00 Written by Caleb Campbell

Hovvdy’s music is built for comfort.

The Austin, Texas-based duo makes music for quiet moments, crafting delicate and hazy worlds that wash over you, inviting you to settle deeper into them with each listen. Warm acoustics and sprawling harmonies bleed into each other in a resonant expanse, tinged with hints of indie sentimentality, slowcore tempos, and lo-fi production. Over the years, each of these elements have come to be central to the identity of Hovvdy as a band, with their 2021 record True Love best encompassing their melding of bleary nostalgia and optimistic charm.

True Love represented a final evolution from their slowcore, Duster-inspired beginnings into a more blissful and reflective style of indie folk, continuing down the road laid out on their preceding record, 2019’s Heavy Lifter. But if their previous album represented an endpoint in their discography, their latest release, Hovvdy, feels like a very intentional turning of the page. For one, it is easy to read the self-titled album as a statement piece, a declaration of everything your band is and everything it is becoming. Bandmates Charlie Martin and Will Taylor seem to intentionally play into this expectation, offering up a relatively lengthy 19-track double album.

Stylistically, the extra length gives Hovvdy the chance to push in new directions, which they use to explore their latent talent as pop songsmiths. Whereas the pop-leaning moments on True Love or Heavy Lifter were present, they often were bleary and understated, rarely breaking those albums’ gauzy sheen. Instead, Hovvdy opens on a slight left turn with “Bubba,” introducing the record with a dreamy ballad carried by hissing electronics, rattling percussion, chilly keys, and oscillating synth accents. Elsewhere, the band delivers one of the biggest choruses in their catalogue with “Meant,” a track that shoots skyward atop of towering drums and buoyant instrumentation. On their latest effort, even a characteristically breezy cut like “Forever” comes dressed up in synth percussion and record scratches.

The album is dotted with skittering drum machines, keening pedal steel, and simmering synths, with the band moving between songs that hint at their slowcore roots like “Clean” and tracks that revel in bursts of unexpected energy, such as the breakbeat on “Every Exchange.” They tinker with field recordings on “Portrait” and “Angel,” letting the tracks shift into atmospheric tone poems. They’ve said that when recording the album they paid special attention to live takes, trying to capture the energy present in the studio. That live instrumentation comes into play on moments like “Bad News,” bringing a newfound vitality and unexpected bombast to the band’s songwriting. Yet, the record also brims with the closeness and intimacy the band are known for.

Part of this delicate dance of tones is thanks to co-producer Andrew Sarlo and bassist and multi-instrumentalist Bennett Littlejohn. Oftentimes, they feel as present in the sound of the record as Martin and Taylor themselves. Sarlo’s production on True Love acted as the foundation of that album’s lush vibe, and he similarly knits Hovvdy’s sprawling sonics together with evident care.

While Hovvdy seems to see the band charting a path toward a sharper and more immediate style, there is also a deep familiarity that is intrinsic and inviolable within Hovvdy’s music. Together, Martin and Taylor are a wellspring of warmth and nostalgia, and their wistful blends are always on offer, especially in the album’s patient folk sprawls like “Big Blue” or “‘Til I Know.” While these softer touches could feel too slight or lilting, the band gives them space to grow into cloudy gems, suffused in misty lyrical explorations of family and memory.

In this vein, Hovvdy finds the band dwelling on many of the same themes as True Love: domesticity, nostalgia, and time’s looming passage. “Bubba” opens the record with meditations on sibling bonds while “Make Ya Proud” and “Song for Pete” were written while Martin was staying with family during the loss of his grandfather. The latter track proves especially poignant as Martin recounts both the weight of his grandfather’s passing and a reflection on his own mortality: “On your front porch / You stood so tall / At the window / I cried so hard / Folding your clothes / I saw you and I saw me / I saw you and I saw Pete.” Finally, the album closes on a winding country-tinged finale, which sees the pair recalling and regretting a love gone by: “Thought I’d miss you just a little / Three evenings or four / But my heart is still hurting / For your love, I ignored.” It is a fitting note to end on for a record that often finds the pair caught between memory and the present moment.

In many respects, Hovvdy delivers the new evolution of the band it promises, retooling their sound to fit more easily under the umbrella of festival-ready indie pop, the sort with a penchant for dreamy vibes and big hooks. But while the record feels like a new iteration, it is also an evolution of a deeply familiar form. At the record’s core, it ultimately is more of Hovvdy and at their best, these songs envelop the listener in the same way Hovvdy songs always have. Their previous albums have gently invited you to settle into them, but Hovvdy pulls at you, trying to draw out moments of catharsis or festival-ready melody. If you give into that pull, the results are as endlessly blissful as ever.

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