Music Review

Drop Nineteens – Hard Light

todayNovember 2, 2023 120

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By – Kristi Houk

 

Recommended if you like: Wishy, Winter, Swirlies, Computer Wife, Ride

This is a big deal. All new and old shoegaze heads are collectively losing their shit. 

30 years have passed since the grossly underrated 90’s alternative rock/shoegaze band Drop Nineteens made an album. The Boston based group has returned with Hard Light a sublime collection of shimmering guitars, boy/girl vocals, and thundering bass lines reminiscent of Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook. The shoegaze sound popularized by bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Jesus Mary Chain is enjoying a low-key renaissance as of late so what perfect timing for Drop Nineteens to reenter the landscape. Drop Nineteens hold a special place for those of us old enough to remember their 1992 cult classic, Delaware. Now the band is back with an equally mesmerizing record full of textural vocals and guitar swirls that would make Kevin Shields blush.

Here’s the thing, I wouldn’t call it an exclusively shoegaze record. Yes, songs like the hypnotic, title track “Hard Light” envelop you with those repetitive guitar swells, and in this case, according to frontman Greg Ackell, all in a Drop C# tuning—I’m guessing for a “heavier” sound.

It is a heavy record. Heavy like, bittersweet and perhaps a bit weathered by time. There’s an earnestness to the lyrics like on the driving “Tarantula” (Ride reference, anyone?) “There’s only you until heaven or hell.” That kind of direct, unabashed rawness is what sets the band apart from their contemporaries. I think the Drop Nineteens have more in common with bands like The Dream Academy or The Go-Betweens both of whom weren’t afraid to put their feelings out on display. Ackell has one of those vocal styles that instantly puts you at ease, like he’s on your side.  Add in the beauty of Paula Kelley’s vocal arrangements and the result is magic. 

Hard Light is filled with idiosyncrasies. Pop elements mixed with melancholy. Hungry with nothing to prove. Both triumphant and reflective. Listening to Hard Light is akin to floating inside a warm cocoon with the shallowest light seeping through. This shoegaze, dream pop, alternative rock, indie rock fan is ecstatic that they are back.        

Stand Out Tracks: “Hard Light,” “Tarantula,” “Scapa Flow”

Written by: kristi houk

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