The Metal Hearts' debut album, Socialize, feels like high school. Not because it's amateur, petty or pop, but because it plays well and honestly to the teenage set that didn't quite fit in. And unlike radio (often pop-punk) bands that aim to appeal to misfits with predictable high-school woes (bullies, rejection), the Metal Hearts use innovative arrangements and intelligent lyricism that true outcasts feel at home with. After all, outsider kids are too smart to be sold on manufactured versions of teenage heartbreak; they want the real thing.
Multi-instrumentalists Anar Badalov and Flora Wolpert-Checknoff, 20 and 21 respectively, grew up in Baltimore, attended the same high school and began making music together shortly after graduation. While attending separate colleges, the pair exchanged sound files of, one can only imagine, a slew of sonic experiments (keys, piano, synthesized noise and crafty guitar riffs), through email. Both decided to quit college, ending up back in a Baltimore basement, laying down dozens of tracks, which would eventually morph into the brooding songs that comprise Socialize.
Their songs move slowly, as if forcing their way through syrup, amidst cymbal splashes, deep, resonating keys and treble-y pre-programmed beats. Vocals (both Badalov and Wolpert-Checknoff sing) are sometimes tired, sometimes breezy and, occasionally, reminiscent of Isaac Brock, giving the Metal Hearts a Modest Mouse feel. Dissonant, meandering guitar sounds communicate an attitude that feels spent and sick of it all.
"Disappeared" is infectious, minimal and speedy (relative to the 10 other tracks)
the sullen, half-whispered "Gentleman's Spell" features saxophone (played by
Wolpert-Checknoff) and tinny beat breakdowns. Gliding uneasily on high, then
low, keys and damaged beats, "No More Ghosts" reaches into the past for careless
days: "I miss the days when my dog grew … I miss the pool that we possessed … I
miss the days when we were young" while the hazy, acoustic guitar-led "Midnight
Sun" is, like the majority of the album's tracks, about heartbreak: "I bet we
could be happy, but where do we begin? I used to write you poetry, but I had
a girlfriend then … I'd like to move on, preferably with you/ But God knows I
can't handle another critical review."
Most teenage misfits can't, which is why they prefer getting lost in creative, offbeat sounds like the Metal Hearts make.