In his fifth official studio album as Heartour, titled R U IN, Jason Young is determined to revisit the basic ideals that made synth-rock great in the first place. Right out of the gate in “Brain,” there’s a feeling that we’re listening to something really special, as everything from the beefy bassline to the swarthy synth play builds tension for what’s soon to come next. Through the next nine songs, Heartour is a force to be reckoned with whether experimenting with cosmopolitan substances in “As Far As We Go” or grinding out power beats in “The Persuadable One,” never flinching in his quest for sonic supremacy.
“Refill the Fountain” and “Bubbling” are both a little more avant-garde themed than “Eye on the Ball,” the previously mentioned “As Far As We Go” or “Dear Future” are, but the shared post-punk aesthetic between these songs binds all of the material here together. There’s a jagged edge to every melody in this record, but I don’t think they were made rough with the intention of repelling occasional pop fans at all. Young isn’t putting on a front for us in R U IN; conversely, he’s being as raw and real as one can be within four studio walls.
R U IN has got some of the sexiest dance beats I’ve listened to in the past couple of months, but none of these tracks sound as though they were specifically designed for the club (or the radio, for that matter). The churning “Let the Robots Drive” and faster-paced “Brain” could definitely turn up the heat for anyone looking to synchronize their bodies to some spacy grooves, and even though “Eye on the Ball” is slightly ambient-toned, it has as much punch as any song here does. This is a pretty balanced LP, which isn’t something I’ve been able to say about a lot of indie records this spring.
The tracklist here feels even more eclectic and enticing on shuffle than it does when played straight through, but this doesn’t diminish the progressive tendencies in the songwriting at all. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Young was trying to construct something very conceptual in R U IN, but he wasn’t’ pretentious in his handiwork. The narrative in “Refill the Fountain” has a loose end that fits into the suggested void of “Baby Spiders” just as “Brain” lends value to the understated verses of “Bubbling,” making every track here essential to understanding Heartour’s artistry.
Those who have never heard the work of Heartour before needn’t feel intimidated by the thought of picking up R U IN this May 22nd – actually, I think it’s the first record in his discography they should listen to. Jason Young has been in the game for almost two decades now, but here, he sounds as wide-eyed and excited by the medium as he did in his rookie release, Three, which was released some seventeen years ago. He’s come a long way, and his knowledge is artfully displayed in all tens songs on this LP.
By Bethany Page