Hovvdy Sadly Succumb To The Sophomore Curse On ‘Cranberry’


By Dominic V. Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

Following up on their debut 2016 record Taster, the Texas lo-fi duo Hovvdy return with a refinement of their established sound on the 2018 sophomore effort Cranberry. The pillow core band’s soft tones take a chill acoustic sound to the absolute nth degree on this LP, really hammering it down with dreamy guitars characteristic of the genre. These guitars, coupled with the vocals (which are sometimes excessively muffled), really lull the listener into being swept away into the pleasantness of the music.

The band returns to and builds on some of the ideas from Taster here on Cranberry: the music is more polished, and the band seems like it has a more focused direction with where it is going musically. There is an undeniable calmness to the album, which really bespeaks the name of its genre, but this isn’t to say that it doesn’t go above and beyond the easy listening trappings of the pillow core genre.

While as a kind of ultra chill lullaby, the album is just fantastic and it’s something you can kind of breeze in and out of leisurely. But as the group’s melodies cycle through their respective songs with little change, a lack of diversity in the music becomes insurmountable. This results in many of the songs sounding overly similar and consequently unremarkable. This same issue plagued Taster at times, and the monotony of Cranberry affirms that it has not been rectified by the band; though this might be a stylistic choice for the band – given how “easy listening” it is – Hovvdy lose a crucial sense of direction and point, at times feeling irredeemably drone-y, no matter how melodic the songs.

Along with the music sounding fairly similar throughout, the intense muffling of the lyrics (due, no doubt, to the low fidelity recording practices the band favors) fade into the background of the song far too often. And while this technique isn’t without its charm and benefits, it does leave the album lacking, taking away any pleasure that would be discerned from repeated listens.

The album is not without its positives, however. There are tracks on this record that show just a little more polish than their predecessors on Taster and come across much better. One of the best examples of this is the track Truck. The song starts slowly, with a cloud of nice acoustic sounds and little else, and it has a real melancholy vibe to it that begs the listener to feel a bit blue. It’s got a whole story that kind of ebbs on the fringes on the song, passing the tale slowly to the listener: “I won’t come home tonight if you’re going through with it, if there is trouble I will run from it all the time,”. The song gives off a whole rudimentary story telling feel, or maybe a new school story telling. It just does so in a really interesting slow-release way.

But the album does, sadly, fall short quite often. For instance, on tracks like Late, which is certainly good musically, but isn’t anything new or even that easy to listen to. It has an almost pop punk crossed with shoe gaze vibe to it. The vocals in this song take the lo-fi sound entirely too far, with the lyrics being somewhat difficult to make out in the track. For much of the album, one tries to enjoy the music, but when a song is this difficult to understand, it does substantially detract from the listening pleasure.

All in all, Cranberry is a difficult album to consider as anything other than a decent second record. The sound of the album is totally there, yet the production and vocals, however, are severely lacking. And while this can be construed as a part of the whole DIY lo-fi genre, it also heavily detracts from the music and holds it back from being a great sophomore effort.

rating 5

Top 50 Songs of 2016





By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

It’s here! Chuck those negative opinions aside as for the next week we’ll be counting down my musical highlights of the year. While 2016 was full of many negative events (US election, multiple celebrity death, suicide squad, damn daniel etc.), on the other side of the coin music was as entertaining and fascinating as ever. Hip-hop continued to demonstrate its creative power while rock and other genres revitalised themselves to provide us with some of the best singles of their respective artist’s careers.

As always we have the staple “this is my opinion” placeholder to insert before we get cracking on so if there are any songs you think are missing or should be placed higher/lower then keep in mind that this is my list. Since there are 50 tracks to go through, I’ll speed through the first 25 or so and go into a bit more detail as we reach the top 20 picks. With that being said, let’s get the ball rolling…

50. Glue 70 – Casin

49. Crywank – Love

48. Vistas – Sign Language

47. Brand New – I Am A Nightmare

46. Boston Manor -Lead Feet

45. Kevin Devine – Instigator

44. SBTRKT – Let Them In

43. Run The Jewels – Talk To Me

42. Fake Boyfriend – Bumtown

41. Parquet Courts – Dust

40. Pale Kids – Not Listening

39. Blink-182 – Cynical


38. Weezer – Jacked Up


37. Frightened Rabbit – Die Like A Rich Boy


36. Jamie T- Tescoland

35. Hovvdy – Try Hard

34. Honeyblood – Love Is A Disease

33. Skepta – Man

32. Metallica – Spit Out The Bone

31. Young Thug – RiRi

30. Enter Shikari – Hoodwinker

29. Touche Amore – Displacement

28. Kendrick Lamar – untitled 03

27. Biffy Clyro – In The Name Of The Wee Man

26. Sweet White – Genine


25. Joyce Manor – Eighteen

24. Death Grips – 3 Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood 

23. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Necessities 

22. Twin Atlantic – Gold Elephant, Cherry Alligator

21. Mean Jeans – Michael Jackson Was Tight

20. The 1975 – Somebody Else

Trust me, I’m just as surprised as you that The 1975 are making an appearance on this list. Whilst their latest album was a double-edged sword, only just managing to provide more killer than filler, when the band delivered something good it was really fucking good. See Somebody Else for example, a song that dabbles into the topic of modern day romance that frontman, with the hand of some vocal manipulation, executes brilliantly.

19. Charli XCX – Trophy

The ultimate pump up song of 2016, Charli XCX continues her reign as one of the most likeable female vocalists in music right now with a fantastic combination of 00’s club music and peculiar beats.

18. Radiohead – Daydreaming

Beautifully minimalistic and driven solely by piano alongside some glitzy chimes with a Jamie XX flare to them, Daydreaming was the standout track on Radiohead’s triumphant return A Moon Shaped Pool: a calm, borderline lullaby that dips its toes in fearsome waters before diving head first into them during the climax.

17. Bon Iver – 33 “GOD”

Showing off the majority of 22, A Million’s religious subtext, 33 “GOD” is a showcase of Bon Iver’s experimental take on their latest record packaged alongside the delicate rock they’ve mastered since their debut For Emma, Forever Ago.

16. Blood Orange – Best To You

Providing some of the best R&B in recent memory, Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound hit its peak four tracks in with Best To You. Featuring a stunning vocal performance from Empress Of, Dev Hynes showed off just how good he is at mixing production and songwriting together.

15. Real Friends – Mess

A pop punk song that has lyrics that manage to be fresh for the act due to being about something other than a break up?! Revolutionary! All jokes aside, the crisp production value along with a catchy as all hell chorus makes the track feel like Real Friends have been working hard on their songwriting capabilities since their debut record and, despite what they’re saying in the public eye, are making efforts to progress as a band.

14. Codist – Puddle

Glasgow band Codist came out with their debut record all the way back in January and continued to be one of my favourites throughout 2016. My personal favourite track off of Nuclear Family had to be Puddle that harks back to Blackened Sky era Biffy with some equally beautiful lyrics about “why you can feel your insides glow”.

13. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things

The shortest track by far on this list, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s titular theme tune to Netflix’s surprise hit series Stranger Things is, much like the show itself, a total love letter to 80’s electronica with ominous synths lulling you into a sense of dread.

12. American Football – My Instincts Are The Enemy

Showing that the band still had what it takes to retain relevance in a genre that has long since evolved since their one and only record, American Football showed they deserve all the praise they get with their second LP. My Instincts Are The Enemy is a testament to the intricacy this band can provide with just three instruments, pulling off smooth and satisfying tempo changes and delivering beautiful lyrics as if they had never been away.

11. Schoolboy Q – Groovy Tony 

Schoolboy Q may have given us a pretty lacklustre LP in 2016 but he made sure we weren’t left empty handed with Groovy Tony, drenched in eerie production and driven by one of the most aggressive sounding flows in hip-hop.

10. Frank Ocean – Nikes

WE IN THE TOP 10 NOW BABY! The musical Where’s Waldo Mr Frank Ocean returned this year with his long awaited Blonde that kicks off with one of the strongest tracks of his career. Nikes modifies Ocean’s vocals into unrecognisable territory, delivering lines about lost ones and consumerism with a minimalistic background which needs to be listened to for it to be fully experienced.

9. Danny Brown – When It Rain

Not only did Detroit’s prodigal son Danny Brown deliver the best record of his career, arguably one of the greatest hip-hop albums in the past decade, but he managed to shake up his tried and tested sound on top of that. Much like Groovy Tony, When It Rain cranks up that ominous notch up to 11 and packs the visceral imagery to back it up.

8. Moose Blood – Knuckles

Arguably the best track Mooseblood have delivered thus far, Knuckles embodies everything the band have been great at since their debut: providing a killer hook with beautiful lyrics and vocals. While the majority of the band’s sophomore effort is far more grounded in pessimism, Knuckles seems to hit a major realist chord and wonderfully so.

7. PUP – DVP

Unlike other acts of the genre who do a lot of rocking but very little growing up, PUP manage to nail the topic of maturity on DVP which flows seamlessly on from the aforementioned If This Tour… into an even more anthemic style on record The Dream Is Over. Addressing how they handle issues, in this case getting “so drunk that I can’t speak”, as well as others telling them to grow up, the track manages to keep a positive vibe going in its instrumentals whilst juggling some of the darker lyrics on here.

6. James Blake ft Bon Iver – I Need A Forest Fire

While James Blake’s latest record was sub par at best, there was a diamond in the rough in the form of I Need A Forest Fire. Combining Bon Iver’s beautiful vocals alongside Blake’s versatile singing is a genius concept and is wonderfully executed, managing to explore the .topic of new beginnings with total ease.

5. Chance The Rapper – Blessings

It’s hard to argue that 2016 belonged to anyone but if I had to place a bet on it, my money would be on Chance The Rapper. Colouring Book was one of the most enjoyable listens of the year with bucketloads of optimism and hope in a year that very much needed it. Blessings pretty much embodies the album’s core message better than any other track does. A gospel influence is felt not only in its sound but its lyrical content: lines about redemption, fatherhood and faith are subtle with the main hook from Jamila Woods being infectiously catchy.

4. Childish Gambino – Redbone

No artist this year transformed quite like Childish Gambino. Swapping out hip-hop for funk/soul/R&B music is an impossible risk but Gambino somehow survived the transition, quality intact. Redbone shows this perfectly, displaying a wonderful use of vocoder and the aforementioned funk element that made Awaken My Love one of the most refreshing listens of 2016.

3. David Bowie – Lazarus

The loss of David Bowie was one of many celebrity deaths to occur in 2016 but was the one that no doubt hit the hardest. Lazarus pretty much acts as a foreshadowing to it all with lyrics such as “look up here, I’m in heaven” managing to evoke a tear or two out of even the most casual Bowie fan. While it may be a difficult listen considering the context, Lazarus stood out well before the passing of Bowie, providing the perfect balance of instrumentals and Bowie’s unique vocals.

2. The Weeknd – Starboy

Before we get into the top pick of this list, we have but one more track to praise, that being The Weeknd’s Starboy which features on the RnB superstar’s eponymously titled record. Featuring a backing beat that sounds like a less feisty but equally enjoyable Yeezus feature, the partnership with Daft Punk means it’s no real surprise that Starboy finds itself so high up on a best tracks of 2016 list.

1. Kanye West – Real Friends

While The Life of Pablo was an enjoyable albeit messy release, it undoubtedly features the best song Kanye West has released since Runaway. Real Friends puts Mr West in his most vulnerable position since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as he voices his guilt regarding friends and family over a beautifully tragic sounding beat. Think Aphex Twin entwined with heartbreak. The song ends with a poignant howl that evokes the same sadness and, in a way, isolation that we have become accustomed to with Kanye’s more personal tracks. Sources say that when the track was first released, the title was missing the word “friends”. In a twisted way, it’s both a relief to hear Kanye sounding the most real he has in years whilst it’s also uncomfortable to witness the inner turmoil he’s experiencing that has only since got worse with his recent inauguration into a psychiatric ward.










Blame my appreciation of anything the slightest bit moody or my unfiltered love of music that resembles American Football’s atmospheric debut but HOVVDY are without a doubt the best act to have came out in 2016 so far.

While they’ve been creating tracks for two years now, the release of Taster, their debut album, the band have gained some serious traction in no small part to beautiful singles that were drip fed to listeners prior which thankfully make an appearance on this LP.

Take Meg for example, a song that like the majority of Taster takes its time as it blissfully wanders through raw guitars, slow tempo drums and a wonderful display of vocals which somehow remains just as intriguing when they come through a crackling telephone line.

There’s a definite sense of isolation on this record which comes from the lyrics, sometimes nonsensical but for the most part paint a harrowing picture of self doubt that gives Taster some real emotional depth.


Even some of the more upbeat, tranquil music that Taster has to offer still has a hint of sadness about it. Problem is a minimalistic, charming track that is still as calming as it was when I first listened to it a few months ago, despite the fact that I missed out on an empathetic story that is overshadowed by a tremendous high octane, distorted guitar riff.

 HOVVDY have managed to effortlessly seam together an album that packs a punch both in its sound and the words that accompany it. Just like some of the best albums you’ll come across, the band have crafted a unique and consistent tone that has resulted in one of the best pieces of music 2016 has to offer.
Like I said once before and what I’ll continue to say for as long as I have your attention, Hovvdy are an act to keep your eyes, ears, nose and any other body parts on.






TRACK REVIEW: Hovvdy – Problem

As I write this review, a strange occurrence has happened in Scotland and that is sunny weather. Just like any other part of the U.K., we’re as likely to get this kind of weather as we are a new Muse album that is any good. However, a gift from Texas in the form of Hovvdy are the perfect companion to this kind of tranquil and beautiful setting.

Their track ‘Problem’ couldn’t be any less of an issue as far as their sound is concerned. While not octane until more than 2 minutes into its running time, it’s soaked with American Football minimalism and wonderful vocals, as soft as the guitars that run through this song. It’s no mistake that the name Hovvdy looks so similar to the word howdy with such a warm welcome to the band.

Mark this one for you summer playlist.