Caught somewhere between showing their age and showcasing their experience, Hot Water Music makes their return with Exister, their first album of new material since 2004. Like running into an old friend for the first time after an extended absence, the album is recognizably HWM, while feeling different enough that it's clear some time has passed. Stylistically, the band's sound feels more or less intact, with its bouncy blend of pop punk energy and post-hardcore noodling coming together nicely. What feels different about the whole thing is the overall vibe at work on the album, which feels more weathered and mature than their previous work. It's clear that the bandmembers' time apart from one another has changed them, but that's not really such a bad thing. The most noticeable difference is Chuck Ragan, whose voice sounds gruffer and more forlorn than ever, something he probably owes to the time he's spent out in more folk/roots rock-oriented waters. This change in his style adds a feeling of wisdom to his vocals, giving him an aged sense of authority in his delivery that makes you want to listen to what he's got to tell you. Though Hot Water Music are, unsurprisingly, not the same band they were eight years ago, it turns out that's not such a bad thing. While the world might miss the raw energy and exuberance of their earlier work, the more precise and mature band found on Exister is still as effective, and is definitely one that fans will want to stop and catch up with.
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney