Heartsounds

Until We Surrender

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"Introspective" isn't exactly the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of old-school punk. Back in 1978, how many people were describing the Clash, the Ramones, Black Flag, 999, or the Dead Boys as introspective? But many things changed with the grunge/alternative/Seattle explosion led by Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the early '90s, and from then on, rock was full of punk and punk-influenced artists who were as introspective as they were hard-rocking. Heartsounds' Until We Surrender is a perfect example of how an album that's highly introspective can also be loud and proud. For this Bay Area-based male/female duo, introspection doesn't mean sounding like Sarah McLachlan or Jonatha Brooke; it doesn't mean playing a gentle, caressing tenor sax that recalls Stan Getz during the cool jazz era. For singer/guitarist/bassist/drummer Ben Murray and singer/ guitarist Laura Nichol -- who comprise Heartsounds -- introspection comes via melodic but exuberant and punk-drenched alternative pop/rock. Until We Surrender rocks aggressively, but one need only read the lyric sheet to realize that this is a very introspective album. Those who hear this 2010 release without knowing anything about Murray and Nichol's backgrounds might be surprised to learn that in their pre-Heartsounds days, they were part of Light This City -- a thrashy extreme metal band that combined death metal with elements of metalcore and black metal. Nichol, in fact, provided an abundance of Cookie Monster growls and black metal rasp vocals for Light This City, and is one of the few female singers who has performed that type of extreme metal. But Heartsounds is a major departure from Light This City both musically and lyrically. About the only thing the two have in common is the punk influence, but what Murray and Nichol did with that punk influence on Light This City's albums and what they do with it on this 39-minute CD are like night and day. Murray and Nichol obviously wanted a major change of direction, and that change of direction yields likable results on Until We Surrender.

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