Without a doubt, this is the most anticipated release of the year for me. It is the first full-length Hearts Under Fire album and is the follow-up to 2012’s EP We’ve Come Too Far To Live In The Past. The wait has been too long and I am so excited to say that it is finally arriving on Monday. I posted an acoustic video of the band performing their latest single Knots and the track was a teaser for the album which really is worth the two year wait.
After first seeing this all-girl rock outfit live at the beginning of 2012 when they supported Illinois pop-punks Mest in East London, Hearts Under Fire sucked me into their crazy rock-on world and I’ve been a big fan of theirs ever since. Their previous EPs Letters and We’ve Come Too Far To Live In The Past were full of melodic choruses and crashing instrumentals that would hook onto your ears and never let go. Each of their previous releases have shown that Hearts Under Fire are great at the big loud alternative anthems as well as the soulful downbeat ballads and Outlines is a continuation of that.
Beginning with lead single Knots, it gets off to a kick-ass feminine start. Mary’s melodic vocals soar above the fuzzy guitars and tapping drums. So much soul and passion is thrown into the atmospheric single which features an explosive instrumental around the perfectly crafted lyrics. “My tongue is tied too tight, there are knots in my stomach. I just can’t cough it up or cut it out” is a feeling that so many people recognise and can relate to. It leads into the attitude-filled Colours with its soaring riffs and pop-punk rhythm. Slamming guitars and crashing drums match the haunting beautiful vocal which is echoed with Kitty’s backing. It’s a song that is full of emotion and spunk, which is ideal for singing along to when you’re feeling a bit angsty.
Yet more passion is injected into the vocals on The Things You Do To Keep Yourself Amused, a fast and furious track full of girl power. Packed full of energy in the growling riffs and catchy rhythm, it’s another big punchy hit for the band. Sharks continues in the same vein with its mechanical guitar and steady drum. The vocals take on a darker, lower tone but fly again in the chorus. It’s a big pop-rock anthem with an instrumental including thumping drums and suspense-building guitars.
Another earworm on Outlines is Cry Baby. A fuzzy retro riff kicks it off and the vocal takes on a sultry slant over the top of the classic alternative rock guitar slides. The rhythm is full of old soul and on the chorus, the vocal has a great vintage soul tone to it. With the catchy hook, you’ll be singing along to it in no time. Ever the experts on writing songs that bury their way into your brain, False Hope is yet another one. Fierce drumming from Lexi and crashing metallic guitars from Nicky and Kitty back the gentle melody while giving way to the subtle harmonies.
Perhaps my favourite track on the album is This Can’t Be Love. The lyrics are so well written and illustrate exactly how it feels to be confused about your feelings for someone. “But you get me worked up, so intense. This can’t be love, it makes no sense. I can taste you on the tip of my tongue. Is this how we felt when we were young?” is possibly my favourite chorus on the album, purely because it’s so easy beautifully put. Added to that, the incredibly catchy dark riff that recurs throughout the track and it’s a very pretty, emotional track that has so much heart. It’s followed by the philosophical Serotonin Blues, which is begun with a frantic instrumental and taken on by another gravity defying vocal decorated with spiralling riffs.
The album comes to an explosive end with Lines and Slow It Down. Lines begins with a simple tap of the drumsticks and some loud and proud guitars. The vocals are offset with the instruments giving it a chaotic feel and there is a link back to the beginning of Knots with the reference to lines on the skin. The harmonies accompany the catchy hook and make it an atmospheric track that is perfect for crowd-pleasing. Closing with Slow It Down hints at a calm ending but it is in fact a solid rock anthem. Finishing as they started with ferocious instruments and impressive vocal licks, Hearts Under Fire have treated us to an album full of their signature angsty rock with the right amount of emotion and rawness.
So there are no swaying romantic ballads a la 1968 from their last EP on Outlines but it’s far from simply an angry series of digs at those that have wronged them. It’s an album full of songs that deal with a variety of issues that many people can relate to and it visits many different emotions from anger to fear to confusion and even heartbreak. Hearts Under Fire are a band who will always produce songs that resonate with me. I just hope it’s not too long to wait for another release!