Heartsounds: Drifter

Growing out of metal and into punk, Heartsounds has improved a lot since their debut, figuring out the basics and progressing naturally into the genre.



Label: Epitaph
US Release Date: 2011-07-26
UK Release Date: 2011-07-26
Artist website

Rock music is the source of so many offshoots that it's often easy to forget how closely linked certain genres and subgenres are at the core. Only after sampling an extremely vast set of different rock-inspired styles does it become easier to recognize the similarities that exist among punk, alternative, metal, indie, and hardcore. These similarities are the reason why bands like Heartsounds exist. The punk-rock quartet was born out of the ashes of melodic death-metal group Light This City following their breakup in 2008, mostly due to financial difficulties and what vocalist Laura Nichol summarized as a dissatisfaction with the metal scene in general. At that point, Nichol and drummer Ben Murray decided to shift their focus to their new musical love -- melodic punk in the vein of Bad Religion and A Wilhelm Scream. Their debut album Until We Surrender was a decent beginning for the new band, and sophomore effort Drifter displays growth and an overall tighter focus for Heartsounds.

The most immediate sign of improvement on Drifter is in the guitar work. Both Nichol and Murray were new to primarily playing guitars when forming the band, and it showed on Until We Surrender. The guitar work on that album was uninspiring and fairly basic, even for punk standards. Drifter contains a much greater variety of guitar lines and maintains the interest level in listeners from start to finish. Interestingly enough, a number of riffs from the album sound as though they could also fit on Light This City songs, maintaining the thrash inspiration that the now-defunct group was so widely renowned for. In particular, "Every Second Counts", "Unconditional", "You Are Not Your Body", and "Uncomfortably Numb" have that metallic edge, and with a little fine-tuning, those songs could very easily be transformed into solid metal pieces. Whether this was intentionally done by the band during composition or not, it certainly adds a deeper level of interest and intricacy to the album for Light This City fans that have continued to follow Nichol and Murray.

The main drawback on Drifter is one that carries over from Until We Surrender, and that is a lack of distinction. The members of Heartsounds are quite capable performers, and it is nice to see Nichol and Murray continuing forward with their aspirations. But Drifter still does very little to distinguish the group from their influences or their contemporaries. Their sound is still fairly archetypal for their genre, and they don't take any big risks to try to do something unique or progressive. It is true that punk is usually not a particularly progressive genre as a rule, but with so many young, aspiring melodic punk bands appearing in recent years, Heartsounds will need to do something to stand out from the pack.

Putting the lack of uniqueness aside, though, Drifter is a good album for Heartsounds, and it makes sense as the next step in their development as a band. They've figured out the framework of the sound they want to make, while ironing out the major flaws in their music and firming up the basics that needed work. It's unlikely to blow anyone's mind, sure, but most people listening to melodic punk aren't listening because they want to have their minds blown. In that sense, Heartsounds is doing exactly what they should be doing with their music. Hopefully the group can uphold that consistency moving forward, while simultaneously fleshing out their identity as a group apart from the rest of their scene.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.