[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+.