[SHOEGAZIN’ COUNTRY] The term “shoegazer country” is
hardly the first thing that comes to mind when talking niche music
genres, but it remains an apt description of the warped soundscapes and
distorted tremblings underlying Hearts of Oaks’ latest LP, New England.
Though much of the record teems with the countrified familiarity
introduced in quaint opener “Used to It Now”—from the gentle
fingerpicking and delectable pedal steel to frontman Nate Wallace’s
Dylan-like delivery and apparent relationship struggles—later tracks
bludgeon you with heavier elements. Slow-burning cornerstone “Trouble
Your Mind,” for example, begins with an expected stock of acoustics and
slide before dual electric guitars descend into a wave of delayed fuzz.
“Grey Riders” and the title track follow in a similar fashion, albeit
with soaring notes as opposed to the lumbering distortion showcased
elsewhere on the album. “New England,” a song in which Wallace aches
with the prospect of returning to the region surrounding that other
Portland, drifts hazily with psychedelic guitars and a drab sense of
pessimism. Like the group’s past efforts, New England is still an
album fraught with internal struggle, but this time around, the quintet
ensures the external chaos is just as poignant as that raging inside.
SEE IT: Hearts of Oak play Doug Fir Lounge, 803 E Burnside St., with Hook & Anchor and Water Tower, on Friday, Aug. 15. 9 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+.