Jade Hairpins, formed out of Canadian hardcore punk band Fucked Up, deliver a hidden gem of 2020.
Released: 29th May 2020
Label: Merge Records
Formats: CD / LP / Digital
Knowing that Jade Hairpins were set up by Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk of Fucked Up, a Canadian hardcore punk band, I was expecting this album to be fast paced, heavy and dark. Instead, Harmony Avenue is a psychedelic, absurd, fresh indie-pop album, largely focused on regret and self-discovery.
Upon its conception, the album was intended to be an addendum to Fucked Up’s latest album. You can certainly feel the link between the two at the beginning of Harmony Avenue, where the character-based absurd style of writing that is typical of Fucked Up’s music is certainly present. J Terrapin is a fantastic opening to the record which has lyrics about a character called ‘Sherylee’ cascade down over tip-toeing piano and slaloming guitar. The second, (Don’t Break My) Devotion, is an equally good absurd dance record that has a fantastic bassline and a production that needs to be heard through earphones to be fully appreciated. These two songs are fun, catchy, and grab your attention immediately.
However, as good as the introduction is, as the album progresses the absurdism is slowly replaced by lyrics that are more reflective and thoughtful. Songs such as Yesterdang and Broadstairs Beach still have the strong basslines and upbeat melodies of the earlier songs, but the sombre lyrics focus on nostalgia and longing. It is in this contrast between cheerful melodies and downcast lyrics where the sparks fly, and where Jade Hairpins really define their sound: flavourful, oxymoronic indie-pop.
Perhaps the best example of this is Dolly Dream. Vocalist Jonah Falco says the song is about “searching, not necessarily about something you lack and have to ‘find’, but grabbing hold of that ‘something’ you’ve always had.” The majority of the songs on the album feel this way, and this is partly why this song feels so emblematic of Jade Hairpin’s sound. The psychedelic aspect is there in Dolly, the metaphorical subject of the song, who is presented as some sort of drug-induced fantasy. But the other lyrics in the song, such as: “I can’t ask a question/ if I’m afraid of the answer/ I can’t go out tonight/ For I’m afraid I’m not a dancer,” are typical of Jade Hairpins charming openness and vulnerability.
This same combination is present in Truth Like A Mirage, a song that feels very much like their version of Girlfriend in a Coma. It is a short tune with heavy lyrics that ponder on the ignorance of youth and the subjective nature of truth, ironically interwoven with a chirpy twinkling keyboard and maracas. The best compliment I can give this song is that it is not overshadowed by the absolute behemoth of a song it precedes, Motherman.
Motherman is one of those special 7 minute anthems that feel like an album in a song. It begins with only acid squelches, snares and claps, but eventually evolves into a cathartic cacophony of a chorus that incorporates powerful synths, expressive guitar, and tribal drums. This wave of sound carries Falco’s Robert Smith-like wailing wonderfully, culminating in a sound that is Jade Hairpins at their most experimental and creative.
By the end of the record it is obvious that this is much more than a side project for a punk album by another band. It stands on its own two feet as an emotional, juxtaposing collection of indie goodness. Certainly one of the most experimental and exciting debut albums of the year.
Stay tuned this week as Jade Hairpins join us for our Why I Love column. You can listen to Motherman below.