Hearts Like Lions largely widened their audience reach when they signed with Tooth and Nail Records in 2015. They released an EP titled These Hands and as impressive and fulfilling as an EP can be, These Hands sufficiently succeeded in both. The sound was a mix of The Almost and My Epic, a combination that is every bit intriguing as it is effective.
So here we are with their first full length album. Did they keep up with the momentum and release an album worth following a great EP? Yes, and here’s why.
Kicking off with You’re On Your Own (Enough), the chorus should grab the attention of fans of the band. Vocalist Stephen Ramos yells out with grit, “You wanna know me? Well here I am.” The aggressiveness of the song is already the hardest we’ve heard from them.
The next notable moment in the LP is the single, “Pretty Little Phase.” The song is catchy in its own right, but adds meaning with its message of not trying to be anything or anyone besides who we are.
As mentioned before with the hybrid of The Almost and My Epic, that only comes into play with Ramos’ voice. And with such a unique sound and strong range, he is the highlight of many songs. Nick Sturz – the drummer is the drive behind the music. The guitars dance around with melodies giving each song an individual sound so that the album doesn’t run together like a 30 minute long song.
The only real problem with the album is with the lyrics. It’s not that they’re cheap or cliche, in reality, they’re self-reflective and written in a unique way. However, despite this, they’re also written in a confusing fashion. A handful of songs are written as a with someone, but we’re jumping in the middle of it without a narrative or explanation.
“Thank You Very Little” continues the general theme of the album of struggling. Each song is about struggling with something – however vague or specific the song allows.
The theme takes a break with “Let On.” The song is a meaningful and mellow trip of reminding the world is not our home, and as the world gets worse, the kingdom is getting closer – “Everything may be crashing down around us. But we’ve still got it together. I never thought it would be something quite so simply beautiful.”
And this brings us to the highlight of the album. Am I Afraid begins with a high piercing guitar immediately setting a different tone from the rest of the songs. Lyrically, the anthem talks about lies shaping people into things they never wanted to be.
If I Never Speak Again ends strongly with Opportunities and the title song.
I feel the need to call this a sophomore effort since the These Hands EP was so good and nearly presented itself as a full length effort. However, this first LP is a great effort from the band. It offers fantastic, crisp, and clean production. The mood and ambience of it is a perfect soundtrack for a late night drive.
RIYL: My Epic, The Almost, House Of Heroes