Album Review: Haerts’ Hemiplegia EP

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Haerts

Hemiplegia EP

Columbia Records

Release Date: October 8, 2013

Track Listing

  1. Hemiplegia
  2. Wings
  3. All For You
  4. All The Days

Personnel

Nini Fabi

Ben Gebert

Garrett Ienner

Derek McWilliams

Jonathan Schmidt

The Brooklyn-based quintet of Haerts is comprised of members who hail from Germany, the UK and the US in a sort of United Nations/United Colors of Benetton fashion. Signed to Columbia Records, the band’s debut EP, Hemiplegia (which refers to the total or partial paralysis of one side of the body caused from the disease or injury of the brain’s motor center – i.e., a stroke, or some other brain injury) will be released in a few weeks, and it includes the band’s first two singles, “Wings” and “All The Days” both of which burst onto the blogosphere and pushed the new band out into the national scene. Certainly some of the national attention had to stem from the fact that the band’s debut single, “Wings” was produced by indie electro pop sensation Jean-Philip Grobler, a.k.a St. Lucia, who is lalbemate with them on Columbia Records.

     With St. Lucia at the production helm, Haerts’s debut effort bears elements of his winningly slick production style – we’re talking about a sound that manages to be airy but with subtly dense layers, anthemically and infectious hooks, incredibly funky bass lines, and plaintive, earnest vocals – earnest to the point of being slightly melodramatic, as the material deals with love gained, love lost, and other archetypical pop themes. Much like the work of it’s producer, Hemiplegia owes a great deal to 80s synth pop and honestly, that’s not a bad thing. It’s cinematic in the sense that it often sounds larger than life, and as though it could be on the soundtrack of some 80s drama like St. Elmo’s Fire but it never loses it’s directness and intimacy. In fact, vocalist, Nini Fabi frequently sound as though she’s singing directly to the listener and that creates a dramatic sense of urgency to the material.

  If there’s one knock to the album, it’s this “Wings” and “All the Days” in sound too much like St. Lucia’s self-titled debut effort.  “Wings” employs Grobler’s use of incredibly subtle details like the gentle bits of percussion reverberating throughout – notably cowbell towards around the hook. “All the Days” has the same thoughtfulness and soaring feel of “Closer Than This” and has a similar hook wrapped around a pulsating bass and arching synth. It’s familiar because it’s heavily informed by a winning formula. The blogosphere will love Haerts immensely but I think that they’ll have to do more to really establish themselves as something entirely different from St. Lucia and other indie electro pop acts. And it’ll be interesting to see how this Brooklyn-based quintet’s full-length differs from the EP. Still, the world can use some thoughtfully made, slightly cheesy pop, especially in an age of mass-produced, soulless product.