Following in the footsteps of great bands and trying to maintain your own originality is quite possibly the toughest part about being in a band. Any great band is full of musicians who are influenced by those who made music before them. You can only hope that your band becomes good enough to diverge from your influencers; to build upon what you already think is great. Hoops, from Bloomington, Indiana, might have had this problem at some point. Their sound is decidedly retro, almost assuredly drawn from the sounds of lo-fi bands before them. I immediately thought of The Zombies and Blue Oyster Cult, to Yo La Tengo and Pavement after listening to their first three cassette tape recordings. Their new LP Routines feels like that divergence into their own originality.
Hoops has this great foundation of lo-fi rock and synth built by bands before them, but their decidedly modern lyrics and instrumentation bring a wonderfully fresh take to an old formula of rock. Having seen these guys live at SXSW I can attest to their talent and chemistry as a band. With most of the band able to sing and play multiple instruments, their understanding of each other and their place in the song gives them the ability to build very complex music out of almost nothing at all. Routines is essentially a collection of those songs from their previous tapes, with some very crucial additions and refinements.
The album starts out at a blistering pace with ‘Sun’s Out’, ‘Rules’, and ‘On Top’. These are the most radio friendly songs on the album and should probably be what you start your summer road trips with. I love the instrumental track ‘Benjals’ that kind of breaks the album up between its more fun songs and its slightly more serious ones. If you’re looking for a complete showcase of the bands talents, look no further than the song ‘Burden.’ The best guitar and drum work is featured on this song and is worth many, many listens to pick up all the nuances. Their ballad work is as impressive as their signature up tempo songs on ‘Underwater Theme’ and ‘Worry’, my personal favorite song on this album. ‘Worry’ is so great because of its calculated simplicity and that beautiful sax solo at the end of the song. Worth mentioning is the general flow of Routines. Intentional or not, the way this album goes from up tempo, sun drenched melodies to lo-fi instrumentals to sweeping ballads is perfect.
Definitely keep an eye out for Hoops as the tour the US this summer; they’re a must see live performance. Routines sits firmly at the top of my list for 2017 right now. It’s an album that I haven’t been able to quit just yet.