Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Heart Bones, Hot Dish, 2020

Album Review

I've already listened to a ton of albums in 2020. New records from King Krule, Soccer Mommy, Greg Dulli, Kiwi Jr., Exmaid, Spinning Coin, Destroyer, Beach Bunny, Best Coast, Grimes, Tame Impala, Torres, Habibi off the top of my head. In past years here, I would've rattled off something about most of those -- whether through the long-defunct "Sunday Run Album Review" or just through my desire to have something posted up here nearly every day.

That, obviously, doesn't happen as much anymore. My old bones have dictated that I run a lot less frequently and cycle a lot more. I don't plug up my ears with earphones while riding outside; and, when on the trainer indoors, it's Netflix / Hulu / HBOGO / Baseball on the iPad. So "Sunday Ride" reviews aren't really a thing. And, honestly, writing for the site just hasn't come as easily for me as it once did. Of all the albums I've heard so far this year, though, the one I keep throwing on -- while making dinner for the cooldaughters, waiting at pickup for school play rehearsal, lying in bed, trying to write or edit photos at my desk, or even lumbering around the neighborhood on my last run -- is Heart Bones' Hot Dish. Little Dickman Records and I have been helping out with Heart Bones' upcoming show at The Saint this Saturday, March 7th; so I decided I'd just stream-of-consciousness put down some thoughts on what I love so much about the record. Let's see how this goes...

Heart Bones is the collaboration of Sean Tillmann, a.k.a. Har Mar Superstar, and Sabrina Ellis of Austin's A Giant Dog and Sweet Spirit. It's like their match was pre-ordained. As artists, Tillmann and Ellis both employ over-the-top theatricality and sly humor as they bring listeners and audiences along on a soul-baring journey. On Hot Dish, the pair combine their formidable songwriting and performance talents to produce a collection of infectious, danceable tracks inspired by the electro-pop of my 1980s tween / teen years.

Early single and opener "This Time It's Different" gives me some definite "Karma Chameleon" vibes, its story of a pair that just can't quit each other embellished by bouncing beats and wavering synths. On "I Like Your Way," there's, once again, that quirkiness to the synths that distances Heart Bones from the pristine perfection of some of their influences and lends some of the grit and realness that both Tillmann and Ellis are known for. It's an ode to uninhibited dancing, and it's a total bop.

"Open Relations" is a tight, funky, spaced out, and soulful song about "love without attachment;" while "Don't Read the Comments" adds a 60s girl group influence to the 80s pop on a song dealing with 21st century Internet trolling. The core of "Little Dancer" is a constant heartbeat with the rest of the song growing and blossoming around it. "Dashboard" sounds like it could be an entry on the soundtrack to a John Hughes film until it gives way to a satisfyingly dark, krautrock-y outro.

I first saw Heart Bones live when they were on tour performing songs from Dirty Dancing. Here, they include their take on Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes" (which was a top ten or so song right around this time in 1988). The cover replaces Carmen's breathy vocal with the heavily altered voices of Tillmann and Ellis and swaps out the cheesy 80s sax for a guitar solo; but, weirdly, it also feels pretty faithful.

"Beg for It" closes things out with some Arcade Fire-level epic-ness that dramatically captures the exhaustion that comes with living through our current times.

The production on Hot Dish (by Aaron Baum, Ryan Mach, and Heart Bones) is a strong supporting player to Tillmann and Ellis. The album -- like some cyber-punk movie from the 80s -- manages to feel simultaneously retro and futuristic; and, while there are a multitude of sonic excursions and little details, none of them ever obscure the distinctive artistic personalities of Sean Tillmann and Sabrina Ellis.

Hot Dish is out now.

Heart Bones have a few area shows this week:

3/4 -- w/ Real Dominic / Alexander Orange Drink at Knitting Factory Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY
3/5 -- w/ Real Dominic at Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA
3/6 -- w/ Real Dominic / Nielsen Family Band at Phantom Power, Millersville, PA
3/7 -- w/ Real Dominic / Dentist / Lowlight at The Saint, Asbury Park, NJ

[A note on Saturday's show: When I got asked to help out with the Heart Bones show on Saturday, I jumped at it. Sabrina Ellis has been one of my absolute favorite performers since the first time I saw them down in Austin; and, through them, I finally experienced the selfless force that is Har Mar Superstar. Like every show I've ever been involved with in the 8 years that I've been doing this, it's one that I really want to see; and I want you there because I know you'll love it. Everybody needs to have a good time once in a while, especially these days. Advance tix are still available.]

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