The Heartbreaks released their debut album Funtimes back last May. This EP, Hand on Heart is sort of its follow-up, except it's got two of the same songs, but all with more strings.
A jangle-pop Morecambe-hailing foursome, the band's sound mirrors their hometown: all sparkle and faded romance from a distance, but really rather mournful when you look closely. The EP's opener 'Hand On Heart' appeared on Funtimes, and is a big, gushing belter for vocalist Matthew Whitehouse. His voice is undeniably impressive; strong, versatile and nimble, it sits on top of the dense instrumentation with confident ease. The verses trot out with extreme musical accuracy, the chorus is catchy and the whole song packs an enthusiastic and energetic punch from the off.
'Why Do You Always Make Me Cry?' is a sorrowful number with limited musical diversity, which makes listening to the lyrics feel like an effort. It lacks direction, and never feels like it properly starts or believes in itself. The repetition of lyrics grates a little after a while and risks blurring the line between forgotten glamour melancholy and 'band does sad song'. 'Jealous, Don't You Know' feels quite naked after the big strings sounds of other tracks, and Whitehouse's vocal swoops and soars as it confesses to deep-seated feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. The cello motif which occasionally rises from the deep is beautifully placed.
'Close the Curtains, Oh' sees the EP ending on a more upbeat note, telling the tale of the first pains of new love, the desire to be left together in the dark. The vocals are pained and drawn-out, with the titular order repeated until the end, lifted by the angelic female vocal line wafting above Whitehouse's. The Smiths comparisons are constantly drawn. You can see why, what with the Spector-esque production, Ryan Wallace's guitar and lyrical references to social anxiety or teenage frustration. But Marr's music is unpredictable but still catchy, and Morrissey's lyrics sombre but often hilarious. There's a complexity to The Smiths which is lacking in The Heartbreaks.
The Heartbreaks make upbeat, fairly generic rock pop, with impressive precision and polished orchestration. It's not music that particularly got me thinking or feeling. The lyrics didn't involve me, and the music didn't force me to listen to it. I was tapping my foot, but I wasn't fully engaged in the experience.
6Anna Byrne's Score