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Heart of Hearts -- 'My Society' (Bleek)( Handout / October 5, 2012 )
LISTEN: Heart of Hearts, 'My Society'
Rating: ** (out of 4 stars)
When Greg Hatem, the Baltimore singer/songwriter who also plays in the indie-rock band Mr. Moccasin, decided to try his hand at a new solo project, his starting point was well-worn territory. In 2010, he recorded a self-titled record to an 8-track tape machine in the warehouse space of the Copycat Building Annex. The result was a moody, atmospheric effort, with vocals delivered under a veil of haze and plenty of reverb.
Two years later, Hatem has doubled down on those incredibly dense layers of sound. "My Society," a 10-track album seemingly dedicated to his love of birds, is packed beyond capacity with filtered vocals, chillwave synthesizers, echoing drums and noise, noise, noise.
It's a roller coaster with fleeting moments of fun. For the most part, Hatem seems interested in two types of songs: Droning, patience-testing ruminations and slightly quicker tracks that could soundtrack a drugged-out '80s party. The former sets a scene of anguish, or maybe just tedium, but you get the sense Hatem hopes we'll feel something in our chests, or at the least, brains.
He's much more effective when the songs actually move, with purpose and rhythm. After sleepy opener "Love of Pearls," Hatem enlivens on "Owls Grow Up," forcing his voice above the ascending synths and steady drum machine. But when "Candling" (named after the act of holding a light to an egg to study an embryo) follows, we're transported back to an insular world. "Feather Fast," the fourth track, arrives like a relief, adding swing and beats per minute.
This seesaw act makes up "My Society." What sounds like a road to nowhere to this listener might reveal itself in a devastating way to another. But what seems indisputable is Hatem's penchant for studio tricks. Each vocal take seems delivered through a different filter (or maybe two or 10), leaving the lyrics difficult to parse and the melodies stilted.
Avian-related albums don't come along very often, so it's natural to approach "My Society" with a curious ear. So it's even more maddening when the final product seems impenetrable, like it's the artist stuck inside the egg. We're able to hold a light to it, see and hear the contents, and even make guesses on what's happening inside. But, content with its solitude, it never hatches. -- Wesley Case