March 19, 2014
Who else remembers building a bridge out of toothpicks and glue in middle school shop class? A few days of hard work usually came crashing down after your teacher methodically added a couple pounds. If only you had more time, more glue, more toothpicks, or some actual lumber. Then one kid in the class manages to get his bridge to hold all of the weights at your instructor’s disposal. Haunted Hearts by Little Trouble Kids is that overachieving kid.
The forthcoming album from the minimalist noisepop group out of Antwerp achieves a huge sound with very little going on, often using little more than a single drum, guitar, and some vocals. The lead single, “Medals & Scars”, viscerally demonstrates this with a drumbeat consisting of downbeat pounding on a tom followed by eery rimclicks, a single drawn-out guitar riff, and sparse vocals. The glue which binds it all is a faint layer of electronic backing which never draws attention to itself.
This style of drumming, especially notable in the tracks “Mrynineterst” and the aptly named “Thunder”, serves as the primary driver for the album, and is particularly effective when doubled by guitar in tunes like “Kansas.” While the guitar occasionally plays along in this rhythmical role, its primary contribution to the mix is processed, wailing melodies. In a way, this guitar work serves as a great middle layer in between the driving drums and the melodic, whispy vocals. With the addition of the soundscaped electronic backgrounds and occasional acoustic instruments, the band crafts a project with a big toolbox of many very precise, little tools, rather than relying on large materials.
While songs vary from the snarky and aggressive “Amateur Bitch” to the undeniably beautiful, post-rock influenced “Where Were You”, there’s a constant familiarity provided by the simplified single floor tom, tambourine percussion, dirtily overdriven guitar, and walls of reverb. It’s all somewhat reminiscent of 60s bands, and more specifically 60s revival bands like Milwaukee’s very own The Delphines, but with a definitive 21st century twist.
Though I wasn’t a fan of that overachiever in shop class, I’m definitely excited by the sounds coming from Little Trouble Kids. Haunted Hearts is a well-written, emotional album, and the minimal instrumentation and arsenal of inventive sounds serve their creators well.