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Heavy Hawaii - Goosebumps

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Artist: Heavy Hawaii

Album: Goosebumps

Label: Art Fag

Review date: Apr. 16, 2013

Living in New York City, I see at least one thing a week that makes me think “Oh. When people make fun of me for living here, that’s what they make fun of me for.” The west coast is not my home, and I’m not as sensitive about how and when it is badmouthed, but I believe that when people make fun of California, they are making fun of things like Heavy Hawaii. The stereotype of the west coast guy who’s completely obsessed with appearing laid-back is a well-worn one, but Goosebumps is such a carefully thought-out collection of things that read as “relaxed” in 2013 that it almost comes across as manic. The tempos never get above or below that mid-60s lurch. Unmemorable, trebly guitar lines abound.

The lead vocals on Goosebumps are pitched down to give a 45-on-33 effect. All of them. I just checked an online stream to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with my review copy, and sure enough: All of the lead vocals on Goosebumps are pitched down. It doesn’t read as experimental, or even as creative self-sabotage. It just comes across like Heavy Hawaii decided they were interested in those ideas and took the easiest, most odious possible route to get to them. Goosebumps makes enough extremely cynical assumptions about me as a listener that I’m willing to make a cynical assumption about Heavy Hawaii and say that, at least for a second, they probably thought about DJ Screw while mixing the vocals. God, that’s frustrating.

The queasy, cottonmouthed exhaustion that can come with being relaxed all the time is something worth reflecting on. Ganglians did a pretty good job with that, and when Sun Araw feels like showing up, he’s been known to knock that type of thing out of the park. Goosebumps, and the lazy ways it plays on the conventions of its genre, sound so lackadaisical that, regardless of Heavy Hawaii’s intent, the album is more a part of the problem than part of the solution. The moment when the vocals come in on this bite-sized sample of “Born To Ride,” the timbre of his voice and the way it sounds like he has just been asked to do a chore, is a perfect microcosm of Goosebumps’s 28 minutes.

It’s been years since I’ve had this hard of a time listening to an album all the way through. It tempers the charms (such as they are) of the genre (such as it is)’s poppier side with ill-conceived experimental ideas, and vice versa. It’s tough to imagine a blander or less subversive album, in any genre, being given a release this high-profile in 2013. For example, it’s impossible to rap without at least some character coming through. All types of otherwise-terrible pop songs are prone to getting stuck in one’s head. Bad noise is the funniest type of music there is. The bottom of the indie rock barrel, on the other hand, is unique; it offers nothing. For all its blandness, though, Goosebumps is awfully inconsiderate towards its listeners, both on a purely sonic level and by tacitly assuming that people will listen to anything if one of the guys is wearing a brightly-colored baseball cap and the group signifies “weed” somehow.

By Joe Bernardi

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