Someone — I don’t remember who — once said a quote that’s stuck with me: Happy music doesn’t make sad people happy. Sad music makes sad people happy. I’ve found that to be true more often than not.
It appears we need those melancholy melodies more so now than ever and two new quality releases have poised themselves to be beacons of hope through mope as we press on through one challenge after another. Life may roar at us, but music can transform that din into dreams of a Cheshire cat grin.
Hate Drugs has received quite a bit of deserved attention for its fantastic music and herculean work ethic but what I find the most impressive is the band's creative restraint.
Playing to its music’s strength, the group never wastes an unnecessary note. Whether the orchestration is done by decree, a democratic process or telepathy, the discipline is impressive and elevates the music to be more than just a collection of notes and words.
Each member brings an essential piece of a puzzle that, when put together, creates a Voltron of texture, feel and emotion that rewards revisiting.
Hate Drugs' latest work — released July 10 — is a provocative and dreamy EP titled “Ponderosa,” named after the small remote town in the Sierra Nevada where it was recorded. Each of the four songs are named after the time it was recorded as well as its song title. They flow smoothly into one another, making the EP less a collection of songs than a capsule experience.
While the first and last tracks — “Night I (Don’t Stop)” and “Night III (Coming Down),” respectively — might be the obvious picks for mass consumption, it’s the second song, “Night II (Divine Providence),” that holds the real emotional resonance and reward.
The song finds singer David Caploe introspective and ruminating on his — and the band’s — own ongoing voyage. He sings in the chorus, “Not sure if I’m wiser, but I sure am older,” chasing a halcyon memory that doubles as a dream.
And it’s in these four songs where I find myself back at the band’s strength in orchestration. When the bass kicks in on the chorus of “Night III (Coming Down)” it creates excitement because it’s exactly what needs to be there — no technical pyrotechnics, just solid, smart, intuitive arranging. Each member floats in and out leaving the listeners with a sense of ethereal joy. “Ponderosa” is a confident continuation of a formidable local group that’s so good it’s almost supernatural.
Local indie-dream pop group Fawns of Love (aka the married duo of Joseph and Jenny Andreotti) might as well be the long-lost spectral siblings to Hate Drugs. Both acts bathe in gorgeously luxurious textures and wistful melodies, both have strong 1980s sonic sensibilities (with the Fawns’ indulging in a delicate goth aesthetic as well) and both bands have been making significant waves outside of ol’ Bakersfield.
‘SOMEDAY’ IS NOW
While Hate Drugs often deals with the sunrise of the eternal soul, Fawns of Love reckon with its twilight while it’s still here.
The Fawns’ latest release, “Someday (Robin Guthrie version),” is a bit of a coup for the group. It’s a re-imagining of the first track off the band’s 2019 release “Permanent” (recommended), remixed by Guthrie, the guitarist and co-founder of the dream pop architect and seminal post-punk band Cocteau Twins.
For those unfamiliar with the Cocteau Twins, it is a tough band to properly describe. The group, consisting of Guthrie, vocalist Elizabeth Fraser and multi-instrumentalist Simon Raymonde, created shimmering, ethereal, vibrant soundscapes anchored by Fraser’s crystalline vocals. You didn’t really listen to their music, you swam in it.
The new version of “Someday” carries that tradition — which the Fawns’ have championed since its 2017 debut “Who Cares About Tomorrow” (also recommended) — changing the original’s New Order-ish feel into a lovely half-time lullaby. Vocalist Jenny Andreotti’s voice floats above the echoing and throbbing guitars and synths, showing that a good song cannot only withstand different approaches but thrive with each interpretation.
The song was released digitally and as a 7-inch pink vinyl single on July 3. The latter can be purchased at fawnsoflove.bandcamp.com.