Review: Renee Heartfelt “Death of the Ghost” CD

I was quite looking forward to this debut full-length after the band's incredible "Magdalene" EP dropped last year, and here they continue with quite a few more tracks of their brand of Quicksand-esque post-hardcore, this time accented by a little more of a streamlined writing approach that's tied more to the 90's style of emo/indie rock than it is to anything that presently gets tagged as such. Like last time there are some noisy/droning lead passages that are a dead ringer for Quicksand, as well as some comparable vocal arrangements, but beyond that I wouldn't ride that connection too heavily outside of providing a cursory example of where Renee Heartfelt is coming from, as frontman Pete Appleby really has a truly unique voice that gives this band an immediately identifiable air of their own. After an unlisted instrumental intro of feedback drones and such, "Gratitude (For)" opens with one of the catchier songs in its use of strong vocal melodies and colorful lead lines while letting the rhythm section drive the verses. "Control" similarly lets the rhythm section do a lot of the legwork while some of those shimmery guitar textures that are so prevalent these days color things up before a really powerful surge of straight up post-hardcore mastery in the final moments - an approach mirrored in "Slow Down", though the payoff at the end doesn't quite make up for the less than intriguing acoustic guitar/piano balladry that takes up the greater portion of the composition. "Hollow" has a strong midpaced rhythmic current to it that's incredibly reminiscent of the mid- to late-90's post-hardcore landscape, not to mention a solid chorus with some memorable vocal work and a well executed sense of melody; which makes the peppier tempo of "Kerosene" that much more energetic and surprising when it kicks in straight away. The recording is quite good, as expected, so the only thing I'd like to hear is even more bass. The drums are crisp and natural and sound perfect, so they really fill the space well behind the dominant guitars and vocals, and the basslines are quite prominent, but a lot of that texture comes from a really defined bass tone, so they need a little more low-end back there to work with the drumming in holding things down. On occasion things can sound slightly thin as a result of this, but the really smooth vocals and fluid guitar sounds help ease past that, so for the most part everything sounds very nice. The disc is housed in a digipack with a simple, tasteful cover that uses very little text for added impact. The lyrics are layered over faint handwriting and more abstracted imagery across the inner panels (for some reason in an entirely different order than the tracks actually appear on the disc), which can be hard to read, and tend to be pretty open in dealing with often specific personal affairs: "A dead man walking, I won't try to fill your shoes, A spirit talking, I will never be like you, Try to justify yourself, I gave up long ago." All in all this is a damn good record that will hopefully lead to bigger and better things for the band. The songwriting on the EP was damn near flawless, making for a tough act to follow, so some of these tracks lack that immediacy and overbearing emotion, but the only other minor issue that I'd cite is that the album feels a little long. Not in terms of literal time, but in the number of songs, as 14 tracks just comes across as a little heavy, and in the process there are several really succinct tunes like "Rush" that feel kind of underdeveloped at barely two minutes long - merely touching on their true potential for greatness. There's a vague pacing issue as well since it starts to feel like too many of the tracks near the end of the disc carry on at a similarly driving midpaced stroll, thus lacking the dynamics and energy provided earlier in numbers like "Kerosene". Not a real "problem" per se, but I know that the talent these guys are sitting on could really blow some minds, and I'm still waiting for them to totally hit their stride. Look out for 'em...

Running time - 43:10, Tracks: 14
[Notable tracks: Gratitude (For), Control, Hollow, Kerosene]
Textbook Music -