The self- described “pillow-core” made by Austin’s Charlie Martin and Will Taylor feels a lot fuller on Heavy Lifter, stuffed with overdubs of ear candy and actual beats. Those accustomed to the dead slow, gauzy and open-ended music of their previous two albums would be hard-pressed to identify Lifter’s buoyant single, “Mr. Lee”, as even the same duo. Yet they haven’t fully escaped the minimalist label. Both originally drummers, Martin and Taylor feel too tentative on their strummed guitars and other instruments to seem fully rounded. And it doesn’t seem to be their intent; there are still a good number of downcast school zone tempos. “Lee” seems sunny, it dwells on a very lonely man. Still, the new album is a conscious move toward songs more directional and pointed. Producer/musician Ben Lttlejohn has brought Hovvdy’s vocals out of the soup, and their lyrics present them as ambiguous observers, finding a sort of detached childhood nostalgia. There’s something uncanny about the pair’s synchronicity – it’s hard to determine who writes what. They weave their voices and build emotion with the simplest of devices – a harmony echo, a syrupy slow bass, a three-note synthesizer riff. Their early material seemed influenced by bands like Bedhead, who wore their badge of mystery proudly. But with their soft voices now amplified, they can sound an awful lot like Iron & Wine. Yet overall, Heavy Lifter represents a step forward. When the beats surface, they animate Martin and Taylor’s already intriguing sound.
Review by Jeff McCord