Fiddlehead are composed of five members who are in or have been in established bands. Some want to call them a supergroup, and by that definition, they are. Vocalist Patrick Flynn and drummer Shawn Costas did what they could in the moderately popular hardcore band Have Heart before they split up over a decade ago. Guitarist Alex Henery still plays in alt-rock pop-punk outfit Basement. Everyone else comes from much heavier, lesser-known bands. But none of this feels as impactful as the music they currently play with each other.
Based in Boston, Fiddlehead have been giving us tightly compacted, robust post-hardcore since their debut EP in 2014. The ripened hardcore kids have now done it again with Between the Richness by way of Run For Cover Records. At a scant 25 minutes, Between the Richness is youthful yet mature. There is a sense of class to it. This is a style of punk and emo without the boyish flourishes.
There are bands similar to Fiddlehead, but not quite with this tint. Influences of 1990s punk bands like Samiam and Jawbreaker can be heard. A splash of Moving Targets, a pinch of the Get Up Kids. Flynn matches vocal styles with Ned Russin, one of two vocalists from Kingston, Pennsylvania’s Title Fight, and Fiddlehead may be a perfect facsimile for those bothered by Title Fight’s prolonged absence. Both bands have a similar penchant for balancing the dynamics of aggression and sensitivity.
Overall, Between the Richness isn’t grinding or too distorted. It rocks, but it isn’t overwhelming like how a record by people who come from highly aggressive bands could be. From the start, the album is smooth yet exciting. “Grief Motif” sets off the album with a pressurized adrenaline rush that runs into the next song without hesitation. “The Years” boasts strong punk and emo sensibilities. It feels like going down a steep hill on wheels with little concern towards hitting a rock. Between the Richness is aggressive, but only when necessary, quickly and carefully moving from fast-paced songs to more delicate atmospheres.
Fiddlehead have a knack for maintaining a driving force in their music and then suddenly falling back to a slow ride without losing energy. Recalling Sparta’s style of post-hardcore from their 2002 album, Wiretap Scars, “Eternal You” begins as a fast-paced headbanger that ends with a midtempo section featuring candied, contemplative guitar tones. “Get My Mind Right” runs on an air-tight steady beat that also mellows out towards the end but never runs out of steam. This song is a re-recording of a single released in 2019, so it’s a bit of a disappointment that it’s on the album considering the anticipation for new music.
Other tracks are surprisingly mellow from beginning to end, bordering on the sounds of pop-rock. “Loverman” is breezy, beginning with a jogging bassline and incorporates a light guitar solo. “Joyboy” is more driving, grooving softcore rock with plenty of downstroke strumming on clean guitars. Henery, guitarist Alex Dow, and bassist Casey Nealon stay away from the palm-muted chords and rapidly picked basslines of many of their peers and predecessors. Instead, they let their progressions burn at times and simmer at others. All of this is accompanied by Shawn Costas’ metronome-tight drumming.
The most memorable moments of Between the Richness come from Patrick Flynn’s impassioned, heartfelt vocals. This might be the kind of band that Flynn always wanted to lead, a post-hardcore, emo-oriented band driven by powerful melodies. Although he doesn’t have a wide vocal range, he displays endurance only achieved by growling in a hardcore band as aggressive as Have Heart.
As with Fiddlehead’s last album, Flynn’s love for poetry feeds into their new music. Spoken word is a recurring element in their music. The album opens with a sample of E.E. Cummings reading a portion of his poem, “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in].” “Life Notice” includes a sample of someone speaking candidly, which is a motif that ties this album to their other LP, 2018’s Springtime and Blind. “Eternal You” ends with a monologue of Flynn speaking about a longstanding friendship and his newborn son.
Lyrically, Between the Richness explores themes of love, loss, and failure. “Million Times”, the lead single accompanied by a DIY-style music video, is about endless, cyclical patterns of love. Patrick Flynn isn’t afraid to express deep-cutting sincerity, and he does it through his confessional, emotionally supportive lyrics. That is what makes Between the Richness relatable and sympathetic. Tracks like “Down University” and “Get My Mind Right” reveal a struggle with feelings of inadequacy, finding a sense of authenticity, and a need to pull oneself together. “Heart to Heart” intends to pass down an emotional connection through lyrics that feel like a hand on your shoulder (When daylight is too dark and night’s last way too long, look into your heart and find me.)
Although it could benefit from being longer, Between the Richness is precise and vigorous. Fiddlehead wields a sound developed by 1990s and early aughts post-grunge, emo, and post-hardcore bands and projects it in ways that feel sincere.