Photo via pitchfork.com

“Heavy Lifter” is the third LP from Austin-based indie rock/folk duo Hovvdy. The style of the band tends to delve rather comfortably into the more chill side of indie rock or folk, or  “slow-core.” While their music may not be traditionally slow-core in the vein of the original slow-core artists, Hovvdy tends to play lo-fi rock, often without percussion, and the music tends to sound rather melancholic. On “Heavy Lifter,” the duo is producing music pretty well within that description. 

Given their output up until this point, the biggest danger for the group has been letting the lo-fi calm of the music drift past the serene or resigned into the more unexciting range, but on “Heavy Lifter” there is cause for praise with several tracks hitting a nice mark and there being a relative cohesion to the project.

The first song, “1999,” is one of the touchstone tracks of the album, functioning as a kind of thesis statement for the album. It is subdued and catchy, and later songs can be seen as reflecting back to this one in ways of atmosphere and lyrics. 

With lyrics like, “cause it’s a small town / and we’ll go for a drive / prom queen 1999 / curtains swing on either side / small town and we’re going around,” the track is capsule-like in lyrical content. 

The handling of memory is done pretty successfully in this song, as there aren’t any moments of intense nostalgia or melodrama. Hovvdy commonly has a characteristic slacker sound which, when it works, can make the lyrics welcoming and soft. 

The third song, “So Brite” is another convincing track, with some of the strongest instrumentation on the album. This song is one of those on the album with percussion, and the drums keep a lulling, steady pace throughout the song. The song seems to do a really good job of capturing a lazy, dragging feel and the production gives the drums as well as the piano a cloudy quality, almost sounding dampened or water-logged. 

One of the most emotional tracks on the album is “feel tall” which comes just before the halfway mark of the album. The instrumentation includes an acoustic guitar strumming at an unvarying pace, as well as a ringing sound of which the instrument source is hard to identify. Like other sound tropes on the album, this ringing noise has an airy quality that seems to hover and permeate the song and the environment in which the album is being listened to. Beyond the plodding or listless instrumentation, the lyrics of the song pack the final punch, so to speak, of giving the song considerable emotional gravity, for instance in the first verse and chorus: “trying all the time / code for everything / i gotta get what i need / slip sliding to the front / fall down a lot / any little thing you want / any little thing at all / wanna make you feel tall.”

Other highlights include the songs “Tools,” “Watergun” and “Keep it Up.” While some tracks on the album are less interesting, at several points, the album has something to offer. It seems like Hovvdy is still working out some kinks, but I think there is reason to believe they are on the way to good things.