There's something genuinely innocent about Metal Hearts' sophomore release, “Socialize.”
Maybe it's the fact that both of the band's fresh-faced songsters aren't yet old enough to drink in the bars they frequently play, or that the disc's thematic overtones recurrently track the duo's thoughts on life and love in the throes of youth.
One part Anar Badalov, one part Flora Wolpert-Checknoff, Metal Hearts relies on the gentle wisps of classic folk guitar, a synthesizer and rickety drum machine beats dropped inconspicuously over the duo's mish-mashed vocal melodies, to create a beautiful collection of dreary-day tunes well ahead of its time.
On “Socialize” Metal Hearts denounces the trappings of its genre by utilizing simplicity as its own creative device, trading in blistering samples and stylized effects, for rough-cut songs that stand on their own.
Written and recorded following the band's inception in 2004, “Socialize” is an experimental collection of songs that chronicles the bi-polar, on-and-off friendship between Badalov and Wolpert-Checknoff. The duo, who met through a former girlfriend (whom both Badalov and Wolpert-Checknoff dated), admit that on “Socialize” their creative energy comes as much from conflict as it does from common ground.
“The whole experience was fun... until we started going crazy we'd start laughing hysterically, then become upset and frustrated, back and forth,” Badalov said.
Metal Hearts embarks on the 43-minute disc with the CD's title track. A loosely constructed blend of guitar and drums, the song meanders nicely from one note to the next, patching one guitar on top of another to yield an elaborate mix of well-conceived musical layers.
Indicative of the duo's fascination with acoustic sounds, “Foothills” again reveals a chain of folky riffs — this time with a dose of strings — to concoct the disc's most memorable track. On “Foothills” Badalov and Wolpert-Checknoff's stacked vocals fall in and out nicely in dreamy precision, lamenting poetically, “takes so long to conjure words I feel are kind enough to make your empty heart want to return from its across-the-country place,” while live-show beat master Sam Leiber dramatically plays the song out to the sound of a solitary snare drum.
On “Gentleman's Spell” Metal Hearts' unpredictable energy is a shot in the arm, keeping the listener on edge without disrupting the disc's moony flow. The duo takes advantage of its penchant for producing off-beat melodies, mixing sporadic bouts of cello and saxophone with Badalov's meditative baritone. Unique percussion and the band's signature finger-flicking guitar round out the song, creating the perfect bedroom rock anthem.
Although a prodigious talent, Metal Hearts remains grounded, challenging itself to experiment with simplicity without becoming overcomplicated. And it is, perhaps, the duo's dedication to creating something unique with little more than a pair of guitars and the ingenuity of two youngsters that makes this band stand out in the Pantheon of teen musical acts.
With a combined age of a shade under 40, the Metal Hearts duo has already piqued the interest of indie mini-mogul Suicide Squeeze Records and split time on stage with the likes of Pedro the Lion. And with a self-produced CD already on the shelves and a tour set for SXSW 2006, Metal Hearts is moving at a break-back pace that has a way of making even the young feel old.
But thankfully for us Metal Hearts still has some growing up to do, and in the meantime, more music to make.