hovvdy – cranberry

– featured image courtesy of bronwyn walls – 

“album of the fortnight” is a bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span. this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: hovvdy.

Austin duo hovvdy’s 2016 album taster is warm, understated, and timeless; its eleven tracks are doused in a collective nostalgic haze, a collage of comfort that executes its function time and again.  double double whammy reissued taster in april of last year and rumblings of a follow-up soon began percolating.  the end result, cranberry, finds charlie martin and will taylor tightening up hovvdy’s core blueprints while confidently venturing out into new sonic territory.

cranberry is compact and potent: twelve songs that clock in around thirty-five minutes.  it’s clear from the hushed vocals that tentatively trace the outlines of opening number “brave” that hovvdy is intent on basking in its signature blend of warmth, the edges obscured by crackling overdrive and arrangements that slowly unravel back to their foundation.  this theory is further supported by singles like “in the sun,” “petal,” and “late,” a trifecta of hovvdy’s core tenets which easily could have nestled in on the album’s predecessor.

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listen closely, however, and these pillars of cranberry feel less anodyne than they may first appear.  the production has shifted cautiously out of a lo-fi realm while still taking time to maintain that appearance, and the arrangements are often fleshed out by foreign timbres.  in this sense, martin and taylor seem to be easing themselves – and their audience – into the aforementioned sonic departure; case in point: the pastoral synth lead that meanders through “in the sun” presages the largely-electronic composition of “thru,” and returns as a familiar touchstone throughout the rest of cranberry.

this practice of using familiarity to anchor tangential ventures eventually yields “truck,” a gorgeous turn at alt-country filtered through hovvdy’s slow-core lens.  in hindsight, the use of banjo sprinkled throughout previous tracks all but foreshadows the song’s arrival, but the beauty of its pedal-steel treatment is difficult to adequately describe; it’s best to just be heard and felt.  zooming out, “truck” is indicative of what martin and taylor are able to accomplish across hovvdy: growth and maturation as collaborative songwriters who are confident enough to tweak the foundation of their aesthetic as needed.

the enduring gift of hovvdy is the duo’s use of space.  it’s easy to spot and appreciate on sparse tracks, like the penultimate cut “colorful” and the woozy instrumental interlude “tub,” but even full-bodied tracks like “petal” contain unbelievable levels of headroom that is hard not to marvel at.  that wide-open, panoramic end result is partially due to compositional choices – such as the openness of guitar chords and the relaxed feel that permeates the percussion – to be sure, but it’s also implied by the ubiquity of the album’s lyrics, intimate snapshots that leave room for interpretation based on personal experiences.

like its predecessor, cranberry is sure to age gracefully as a strong asset in hovvdy’s catalogue.  the album is out now via double double whammy; stream it in full, below.

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