When people say things reflect ‘romance in modern times’ this is usually code for ‘depressing and heartless as fuck’. Hobart three-piece Heart Beach’s Kiss Your Face is, if not the antidote to all that (cause there’s a lot of it), at least a convincing counterpoint.
In relationships or friendships or whatever there’s always points where you have to decide if you’re gonna be openhearted about your feelings, or stay detached and guarded to possibly save yourself some humiliation. Kiss Your Face sounds like the best version of the former. It’s all here: thin walls of share houses, the giddy breathless feeling when you feel like you’ve lucked onto someone special, the woozy guilty feeling of getting blackout drunk a bit too much to deal with whatever, the small moments of doubt when you start to see how it might all fall away.
Heart Beach themselves have adopted the ‘scuzzy’ descriptor with enthusiasm, I assume cause it’s funny to say, and there’s definitely the right amount of cheekiness behind this record and their vibe in general. But to me that word also implies a bit of slackness, or half-heartedness maybe, that you’d struggle to find anywhere on Kiss Your Face. The guitar is fuzzy, distorted, but also tight and pointed. The angsty ‘Record’ shows they can write a big simple riff just like all the good pop punk bands, but then the intricate guitar of ‘Milk’ or jangly-country closer ‘Summer’ are as smartly pretty as anything you’re likely to hear from more overtly sophisticated Australian bands. ‘Summer’ is the euphoric ’80s Aus alt rock anthem we need for these times – I’m shouting along even before I’ve learned the words.
Kiss Your Face is warm and sweet record that stays grounded in its indie rock roots, with sneaky moments of heartache like slow burn epic ‘Sleeping’. That song’s maybe my favourite, huge in emotional weight, a spacing echoing gaze held for just the right amount of time. Having Jonathon and Claire McCarthy sing together across every song is a lovely move – clinging together against the often starkly open production of a lot of the record. This is a sweet record with no sugar high, just the sustained, unexaggerated niceness of love – and all the trouble that comes with it.
I just read that both McCarthys are moving to Canada next year – you gotta make this record huge so they come back.
Look, I could probably just post this song with ‘Heart Beach continue to rule’ and leave it at that. If you know the Tasmanian three-piece you know they make impenetrably solid, understatedly powerful indie rock.
New single ‘Brittle’ continues the trends of much of their debut self-titled record from last year: two guitars playing the same great riff, two low-key and likeable voices working together to drive the kinda nostalgic kinda hopeful lyrics forward. A steady beat, a terrific bass hook. Maybe that sounds like formula but it’s more like direction – Heart Beach make confident music. They know what they wanna say and they say it well every time.
The emotional ‘brittleness’ of this song comes from in the tension of trying to hold it together, to look like you’re fine on the outside while inside shit couldn’t be more wrong. The measured vocals come out like a speech rehearsed in the mirror. There’s a lot going on under the surface of those fuzzy guitars, the drums constant, spare and flat. I’ll rehash the Pixies comparison cause it’s there, but without the over-seriousness that usually plagues those who try to go for the serious Pixies vibe too hard.
The more poppy elements help to offset the cruelty of the phrase ‘I can’t believe that he got over you’, so it takes a few repetitions for it to really sink in. Then by the time it does the song is just about over, and you have to play it again. And again.
Heart Beach have just been signed to Spunk Records, and their next record Kiss Your Face will be out later in the year.
There’s something uncompromising about Heart Beach. Their music is spare but rough, its few elements swiping at you from a blank background in the way a Malevich claws at your vision. The songs all feature Jonathon McCarthy and Claire Jansen’s intertwining vocals – his a caterwaul, hers a disarming coo; a guitar sound like shredded sheet metal; and the restrained, ever-patient drumming of Daniel Butcher.
So far the Hobart three-piece have four releases to their name. The first, 2013’s Holiday/Weather, has a hint of surf rock, but as though it were soaked through by the chilly Antarctic waters that creep up to meet the Tasman. The stark, droning vocals of ‘House’ sit atop an icy layer of feedback that gives the song an illusion of industrial echo. ‘Record’ is short and sharp, a punk tune that’s the closest Heart Beach have come to sounding optimistic. And, from January this year, the insistent, driving ‘Hours’ has to be the band’s most emotive track to date.
Heart Beach have just returned from a stint in New Zealand playing Camp a Low Hum. For now they’re taking a little time to recuperate, but we’re sure to hear more from them soon.