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Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013

Sensual Nostalgia Runs Rampant on Heartthrob’s Debut EP

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Infusing the early-’90s sounds of bands as varied as My Bloody Valentine and The Breeders with the very contemporary, domestic angst of acts like Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob has, over the course of only a handful of short digital releases, developed a sound that’s equal parts approachable and emotional, and entirely unique in Milwaukee’s musical environment. The group’s first EP, Love Efficient, recorded live at WMSE, is a formidable exercise in propulsive pop songwriting.

Opener “Wet Summer” introduces Heartthrob’s basic elements: a textureless burst of guitar feedback is given momentum by Alicia Shatley’s alternately driving and melodic bass and Ash Goodwin’s sweeping drums. Before long, both guitars find their footing and begin heaving the song’s back and forth, two-chord progression even further to both sides before Scott Anderson interjects—with perhaps the group’s most singular component—his heavily punctuated, wiry cries “It’s just another lonely summer / I was gonna call you but you’re such a bummer / So I left you hangin’ on your telephone / Sometimes it’s easier I’d rather be alone” There’s nothing revolutionary about it, but the effect is so complete in its execution that it’s hard to deny the appeal.

Over the course of the EP’s following five tracks, listeners are led through the rousing “Billy,” the somber, ascendant “Just A Second” and lengthy (by comparison) closer “BBR” without ever completely emerging from a swirling, immersive shoegaze haze that’s coupled seamlessly with the group’s danceable rhythm section. All the while, Anderson never deviates his focus from sensual nostalgia, singing lines like “I wish I never tasted / I never tasted / The way you tasted / When I kissed you / When you were wasted,” or “Had enough, oh, I never could have enough / Said too much, oh, I never could say enough / Feel my mouth to your mouth and your lips on mine / Feel my tongue to your tongue.”

The group formed in late 2012 and only recently acquired second guitarist Christian Abler to round out their sound, but they already have a backlog of material according to Shatley. There are tentative plans for the band to make a split recording with another local group that would ideally be released by both a Milwaukee-area label and a U.K. Label (Anderson is originally from England) digitally and on cassette.

Love Efficient
finds its success in reimagining some familiar pop elements in a new exciting way. The goal here isn’t to surprise the listener necessarily, but to excite some of the innate pop sensibilities that may have been lying dormant in rock music for as far back as the last two decades. Heartthrob succeeds by confidently and capably creating a cohesive environment for their sound with skill and patience. The members of Heartthrob are seasoned musicians having played in pop bands, punk bands and straight-up rock bands from as far away as St. Louis, Seattle and England, and it shows. It’s not often that a band can make such a strong first impression from a live recording, but that’s exactly what the group has done here.

Heartthrob’s
Love Efficient EP is streaming at heartthrob.bandcamp.com.