Hater
Photo: Courtesy of the artist via Bandcamp

Hater’s ‘Sincere’: The Scandinavian Hits Keep Coming

Hater’s Sincere provides yet more evidence that Scandinavia is home to some of the most satisfying and worthwhile music in today’s indie-rock world.

Sincere
Hater
Fire Records
6 May 2022

No, not the early 1990s grunge/garage rock supergroup from Seattle (which does have its fans). This Hater are a young Swedish quartet from Malmo, specializing in moody, guitar-driven songs of straightforward pedigree. Hater provide yet more evidence that the icy reaches of northern Europe are home to some of the most satisfying and worthwhile music in today’s indie-rock world.

The movie industry has reached a similar snobbish impasse. The scariest horror films are now Korean; France supplies the best mind-churning suspense/thrillers. Meanwhile, today’s most exciting cop/crime actioners emerge from Hong Kong or mainland China. Likewise, these Scandinavian acts rarely make the jump across the pond popularity-wise, at least not so one would notice. What’s a US-based fan to do? Broaden our horizons and hunt this marvelous stuff down, that’s what. While the music industry might lack subtitles, we Americans are fortunate that so many Scandinavian artists prefer to sing in English.

Few moves are riskier (or more interesting) than an established act switching gears. But such gambles are where creative growth emerges. Hater’s 2018 LP Siesta was a much softer, lounge-ier effort – and to this reviewer, barely listenable. Their sound felt overly spare, and Caroline Landahl’s vocals strayed too far into reedy, scratchy irritation last time around. Sincere presents a major upgrade, with a much brawnier rhythm section plus two new members adding some vital guitar punch to animate the proceedings.

Hater’s influences have also improved. Instead of those cutesy, too-precious vocals (think Björk) or Big Hogg-style lounge horns, one can hear the Cure loud and clear on opener “Something”. The song’s haunted twang and driving back-beat recall Wish-era material like 1992’s “Open”, force-feeding greedy listeners with the same motoring insistence. My personal favorite, “I’m Yours Baby”, features a breathless, nostalgia-inducing chorus and concludes with a screeching climactic solo, a la the gorgeous “Sweet Dreams” by Creeper Lagoon alums On the Speakers (remember them?).

There’s also a distinct CSN/Neil Young buzzy guitar vibe on the coda to “Summer Turns to Heartburn”, combining with Landahl’s ghostly sighs to form the record’s longest track at 5:31. But in addition to these upper ridges, as evidenced in “Brave Blood”, she can also swing low, hugging the bottom end of the vocal register while riding recurrent crests of Stone Roses guitar.

Indeed, among several elements boosting Sincere above Hater’s last record is the much more focused energy level around the singer. According to Bandcamp, the album was mixed and mastered by John Cornfield, whose credits include Ride, the Stone Roses, and Robert Plant. It turns out that with sufficient power behind her, Landahl’s exasperating former gangliness morphs into plaintive desperation, bringing a welcome hint of darkness beneath the surface. By the same token, these songs would seem much better suited for the stage than the band’s prior output.

There’s no obvious dud on this album – just a single minor complaint, and one must dig to find it. The chorus of Sincere’s early-release single from last year, “Bad Luck”, contains the only relapse of that aggravating and repetitive vocal style from Siesta. Fortunately this particular sore thumb sticks out simply because it’s the lone example and certainly not a deal-breaker.

In sum, those rascally Scandinavians have done it again. Whatever rock-Krispies they’re eating over there, we could certainly use some of it back here in the States.

RATING 7 / 10
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