Discovering Optimism in the Melancholic: A Spotlight on Hovvdy 

Austin, Texas musicians Charlie Martin and Will Taylor first came on my radar with their single Problem, off their 2016 release Taster. The band’s first full-length release is a washed-out and slow crawl of nostalgia’s introspective lens that anyone can poke their head into and relate. 

I’ll walk you home / You say you’re tired of talking to people you don’t know / Feet on the concrete we’re weighing on

Minimal and emotionally expansive, I found the draw of Hovvdy akin to Philadelphia’s slacker rock sweetheart, Alex G. A lo-fi, nostalgic tribute to those who grew up in the 90’s and need to take a second to breathe and remember the youthful curiosity of why there’s someone who looks just like you on the TV that’s playing VHS home videos. 

Hovvdy’s first two full-lengths, Taster and Cranberry are both beautiful developments of a band that knows how to make you feel.. something. It may not always be easy to put a finger on, but their brand of slowcore/bedroom pop is always a good foundation for longing for an idea or feeling once loved, but at this point it escapes you. 

Heavy Lifter, their full-length release from 2019, shows Charlie and Will coming into their own and  experimenting with their previously typical formula. Although there’s brief missteps, Heavy Lifter is a beautiful display of feelings of awkward youth when they’re in over their heads; ambitious and bright-eyed but still not necessarily ready for the real world. The album’s opener, 1999 shows a portrait of young love in a small town. The album follows a typical pop formula but is spoken with vulnerability and truth that unleashes itself onto the listener like a warm blanket, allowing you to relish the moments you felt similarly, instead of looking back on those moments with embarrassment. 

It’s a small town and we’re going around / Buzzcut, wearing a hand-me-down / When your younger sister’s around / Small town and we’re going around 

The album continues constantly evolving, working to find its footing, similarly to the atmosphere it creates within its blissful lyricism. Charlie and Will are both vocalists and this album gives both of them a beautiful platform to let their emotions speak. Tracks like Cathedral are able to conjure up a perfect depiction of questioning and coming to terms with one’s religious outlook. There’s such simplicity in Hovvdy’s lyricism that, not only does it feel universally applicable at times, but, there’s a lot to take from it due to the brevity in their compositions. 

Maybe never come back here / We could stay with our friends / Maybe never come back here / Baby we better hover

Heavy Lifter has an aimless air to it, but always has a feeling of “things will be alright.” A reminder for those who may feel lost and treading water. It’s okay to have strong feelings towards something that may not be impactful and vice-versa. You learn. You grow. You pick yourself up. The important thing about this album is that on top of all of the complex vulnerabilities and emotional developments that occur from song-to-song, these songs are catchy. The biggest advantage that an artist like Hovvdy has is the 50-50 of truth in their writing and writing insanely catchy melodies. This is how pop should sound.

And you see the world caught on fire / I’ll try to put it out with my watergun

After having ample time to bathe in Heavy Lifter, Cranberry, and Taster’s washed out euphoria, Hovvdy released a two-song EP, Runner and I’m Sorry, both tracks working to expand their sound and sharpen their songwriting skills. There’s occasional glimpses of hip-hop influences, on top of their ensemble of influences like Sparklehorse, Elliott Smith and the aforementioned Alex G. Runner is a gorgeous depiction of being young, making mistakes and reflecting on what those who you hurt would say present day. I’m Sorry takes a similar jump into the waves of regret and reflectiveness, common themes throughout their work. 

Without a doubt, nostalgia and self-reflection are things that Hovvdy holds near and dear to them. While these are feelings that can feel played out, Hovvdy continues to grow with each release and show that actions speak louder than words. While steeped in the melancholia of Taster and Cranberry, Hovvdy is coming out on the bright side with their newer releases and it shows, especially with their singles for the band’s upcoming album, True Love.  The first single, the title track, chooses to impose itself on the now, as opposed to Hovvdy’s tendency towards what was. The warmth and comfort is all still there, but there’s true happiness surrounding the present ringing throughout these singles, a testament to progress and developing as a person. 

“For each Hovvdy record there’s always been a song that kinda shocks my system, kinda jolts me into a brand new and inspired place,” Charlie Martin shared upon the song’s release. “[“True Love”] was definitely that song for me. I remember writing it and feeling a rush of excitement — crying a lot honestly. it feels so good to express love and appreciation when you really fucking mean it. but it’s hard to feel worthy of love, of something so rare, and all we can do is try to measure up — that’s what that last part [“Do you believe what I said, that I am the man I say I am?”] is all about.”

Hovvdy became an important band to me at an important time. College was a time for personal development and “discovering one’s self.” Hovvdy’s introspection reminded me that things will sort themselves out, like they always have and will continue to — it just takes a little self reflection. 

True Love will be out October 1st. Listen here:

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