I hate the term “guilty pleasure.” When music is an art form, and there are tons of different perspectives and approaches to creating such art, why should anyone feel guilty about liking a band? When I hear people discussing guilty pleasures, especially in the contemporary punk-influenced Warped Tour scene, bands like A Day to Remember, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! and We Came As Romans always get tossed around. Considering that I love all three bands, I am saddened to see so much hate toward these groups, and more importantly, it sucks to see people feel embarrassed about liking them. North Dakota pop-punk-meets-metalcore (or popcore) quintet These Hearts follows the likelihood of those three artists, and just from reading through some forums, I already can see “guilty pleasure” written all over them.
Yours to Take isn’t the band’s debut, but from listening to it, it’s obvious that These Hearts is still discovering their identity. A lot of influence from A Day to Remember can be heard, and much of the (heavier) melodies mirror bands like I, The Breather and For Today. This isn’t always a bad thing, but in These Hearts’ case, it prevents them from really sticking out; instead, they are reduced to a second-rate pop-punk band with hardcore roots. However, while Yours to Take showcases a band that is still learning and attempting to progress into a more mature group of popcore players, it’s an incredibly fun, supremely catchy ride.
“This Is Love” is a memorable song to open with. The verses are bouncy, the chorus is simple, and the lyrics are uplifting. The track demonstrates the ultimate movement away from the negative aspects of the band’s debut, Forever Ended Yesterday, as the high-pitched cleans are eliminated (or at least transformed into much more bearable sung vocals by Ryan Saunders), the screams are more powerful, and the band’s sound is much more compact than before. Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! vocalist and guest star Bert Poncet sounds so much like Saunders in the song that it’s hard to tell the two apart, and the dual vocal harmonies give the song a bit of a lift. Sure, the formula is predictable, with screamed verses, sung choruses, and generic breakdowns preventing the group’s sound from really taking off, but at the same time, it’s fun to see a band so grounded in their craft to the point that you can see their integrity shine through. In These Hearts’ case, they’re drawing from a nearly dry well, but you can tell they’re motivated, and they’re enjoying every drop of water that they get.
“The Inconvenience” and “Miserable” continue in the same vein as the opener, and they are two of the album’s catchiest cuts. One of the more prevalent elements on the record – and in these songs especially – is positive lyrics. While the tracks on Forever Ended Yesterday ran together too much for anything to really be retained at the end of a listen, Yours to Take actually has some stick-out songs that feel both inspired and honest. Just like the rest of the album, “Miserable” is incredibly straightforward, but Saunders’ cry-out for God’s help gives the song a bit of mindfulness that’s often missing in the instrumentation. The lyrics are full of hope, although they often come off as cheesy. The band’s songwriting centers a lot around touring and playing shows, and while the lines are written to benefit the album’s catchiness, they’re often pretty bare.
The mosh-lite “Been Through Hell” is a rambunctious little anthem, and it features the most fun breakdown on the album. “War,” featuring Mattie Montgomery, demonstrates exactly how much These Hearts sounds like their metalcore brethren. Throughout the album, the riffage tends to migrate toward I, The Breather (for example, in the rubbery feel of “Miserable”) and, of course, For Today (in many of the breakdowns and dissonant riffs). Acoustic-tinged closer “Never Mind Me” is reminiscent of A Day to Remember’s “If It Means a Lot to You,” and it gives listeners a break from the repetitive formula used in the first ten tracks. The final track shows the most vulnerable side of Saunders, whose singing voice sparkles as the song transitions from soft to heavy.
These Hearts shows drastic improvement in their second studio release, Yours to Take. However, that’s not saying a lot considering how weak of an effort their rookie record was. Still, the band has tweaked their sound and polished it to the utmost, and while they still sound generic on this record, it’s a fun album from start to finish. This set of songs is for you if you’re a fan of so-called “guilty pleasure” bands like A Day to Remember and Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, or if you enjoy bands like For Today and Close Your Eyes – groups whose Christian ideals are held at the forefront of their musical vision. That being said, don’t set your expectations too high, as Yours to Take is a solid popcore album and nothing more. It may be a few years before These Hearts can compete with the bands they’ve mirrored their sound after.
Popcore | Victory Records