Although it’s been actualized through individual scenes and “post-something revival” genre tags, there’s an unspoken theory that idol worship is one of indie’s integral bridges of style. Typically, the feedback splits between esteemed gratitude at its most positive, with the highest distinction decreeing the new product as just as seminal as the old, and only a notch below plagiarism in the lens of detractors. For example, NME’s C86 cassette infamously birthed dozens of projects scrambling to reap the jangle-rock goodness of their forefathers two decades later—to this day, we’re still trying to force the infectious Sarah Records and Captured Tracks anthems out of our heads.
Slow but graciously steady, Texas-based duo Hovvdy are labeled slowcore revivalists on the surface but naturally attuned to the magmatic potential of indie rock instead of caustically jumping a bandwagon. Their 2016 debut Taster seemed snug within the fabric of Bandcamp’s listless and homespun corpus of artists; economically minded, the album was partly recorded on iPhone application workstations, yet it pushed an aesthetic of tender, full slacker rock best performed at a glacial pace. As a duo, their inner workings are equally enthralling. Juggling the role of songwriter, multi-instrumentalists Will Taylor and Chris Martin utilize the more-with-less principle studied by their contemporaries to create hypnotizing melodies while eschewing a sense of urgency entirely.
On their second outing, their technique only expands in scope and fervor albeit as minimal as their foundation they’ve triumphed. Cranberry’s twelve offerings, kicking off with the ominous “Brave” and winding down with “Swing”’s intoxicating pop, serve as gorgeous comedowns against the bombast this year is already serving up. In addition to the languid instrumentation at play, the verses behind these songs plunge into pure, almost approachable apathy—frankly, it’s music for dreamers without an engulfing focus or sensory overload to distract or overwhelm.
If there’s one discernible shift from Taster, the band’s dynamics feel set in stone rather than gradually pieced together. Elegant lead single “Petal” commences with a series of muffled guitar riffs and an unchanging drum stomp that marginally elevate into an unassertive climax. Likewise, midsection standout “Quitter” embraces the pastoral glum of Carissa’s Wierd’s Songs About Leaving with a slight lean toward the acoustic flank of late-90s emo. Not everything adheres to their cardinal formula; padding their guitar-drums combination with pastel keyboards and (“Float”) and meager electronica (“Thru”), Hovvdy assert themselves as pop auteurs on a budget, but alluring in their craft even with these restrictions.
At times, Hovvdy’s lavish melodies feel like an addendum to long-gone slowcore underdogs like Bedhead and Duster, as well as the earliest incarnation of genre-definers Low. While Taster touted these similarities, their arrangements were original enough to differentiate their trademarks from their Bandcamp peers. On Cranberry, these epitomes are the bedrock for more expansive and forceful handling of sound even if their emotional expression remains loose-lipped and quietly reflective. Ultimately, it’s not the musical parameters of their idols they’re attempting to consort, but an outlet of their own that’s evenly raw and cathartic.