Rock n’ roll, as we know, is often poorly executed, often times being churned out for money or fashionable tastes. But, every once in awhile you come across something that brings back the purity to our hearts and ears; such is the case with the newest release from Portland’s Blue Skies for Black Hearts, titled Embracing the Modern Age. There’s no frills, no hidden agenda, just straight up rock n’ roll with a pleasant pop twist.
A cascading guitar line filters in behind the lead guitar line on opener “The Sitch” crafting the perspective of a narrator who will play the role of the observer. This is much the case for Embracing the Modern Age, as Pat Kearns lyrics often reflect that of an on-looker. His vocal delivery has this youthful quality that, when conjoined with the pounding vibe, brings us pop-rock at its best. “Majoring in the Arts” is much the same, though the grittier guitar line has more hints of straight power-pop. Gang vocals unite in the chorus, prompting sing-a-long moments for the listener.
By the time you arrive at “Deck of Cards” you’ll be quite pleased with the way Blue Skies for Black Hearts use intermingling guitar work. It helps establish both mood, and a bit of swagger, as it doesn’t maintain some sort of simpleton songwriting, a habit far too many musicians fall into nowadays. That mood is one of reflection, but also one that will lead you to envision chasing down the highway with the windows down, Tarantino films on your mind. These moments come and go on the record, but that’s probably one of the strongest attributes, as the straight-ahead sound doesn’t ever grow monotonous.
It’s really all about a nice rock n’ roll swagger throughout the record. Despite sounding innocent, there’s a bit of a sharp edge to Kearns’ vocals on the recording, and the rest of the band does their best to keep that sharpness together. “Sitting on the Edge” begins with a bubbling bass line, almost as if the band’s about to blast off into punk rock territory, but they pull back just in time to give you a sort of pop-Replacements spin. Or you can take, for yet another example, “Taking Advantage,” which has a swinging momentum to it, though you probably refer to it as more of a toe-tapping element of hipsterdom. It all boils down to the purest elements of our indie rock, those relying upon solid rhythm sections and catchy grooves.
Blue Skies for Black Hearts have concocted a record that deserves to be appreciated by the purists of rock n’ roll, as well as the finer purveyors of garage-pop. It’s got its gritty moments and sharp edges, yet there’s so much restraint here that the band never go too far off into the realms of cliche garage rock. They have their own blend on Embracing the Modern Age, something that sounds familiar yet ultimately refreshing; it reminds me a great deal of Regretfully Yours by Superdrag–and that’s a great thing in my book.
Download: Blue Skies for Black Hearts – Majoring in the Arts [MP3]