Boston-based post-punk trio House of Harm have finally released their long-awaited, incandescent album, Vicious Pastimes.
The title track dropped earlier this summer and is a total body-aching stormer. The perfect interplay between the vocals, synths, and guitar, this song creates a dichotomy of a more forceful, thrilling sound while having intense and darker lyrics, lyrics that hunt for happiness amongst the minutiae and the burdens of living. There is a glimmer of happiness somewhere in the words and this song, in its own moody way, glimmers as well.
“Behind You,” the second single released in August, gives us a taste of what the three can do by pushing past their “expected” sound. We experience something more dream-pop, with gloriously wistful guitar phrases and romantic synth lines that seem to just glide along sweetly, almost in a nostalgic way, paired with Rocheford’s more gothic and contemplative lyrics. The contrast between this single and “Vicious Pastimes” is enough to show the group’s musical versatility and true, raw talent.
The third and most recent single, “Always,” is a distinctly deceptive synth-pop romp that contrasts deliciously with Rocheford’s melodic and lovelorn lyrics. It’s definitely catchier than the other singles and will most likely appeal to a wider audience, though it is doubtful that this is the band’s main goal. Another track full of contrast, here we see duality is present again and this stretching vocal versus its sonic backdrop shows some true creativity and versatility.
Each song on this album has been gorgeously and lovingly crafted, and the singles truly speak to that. There’s such a split between the band’s dark-yet-danceable signature and Mike Rocheford’s intense and more introspective lyrics, but I think that’s the point. Each song maintains HoH’s synth-driven sound. However, the band isn’t shy about exploring musical boundaries. “Catch”–which had been released previously as a single in 2019–is another dreamy, almost hazy and free-feeling track that is distinctly lighter than others on the LP, whereas “Against the Night” is heavier with a more pushing heft, shadowy and cold, pulsing through the evening.
House of Harm is clearly a band that knows how to flex their musical muscles. This feels like the album I’ve been waiting for for years and I cannot wait to see what their future holds. They make their post-punk forefathers proud.
You can get a copy of Vicious Pastimes from House of Harm’s official website.