Posts Tagged ‘It’s Real’

Ex Hex: <i>It's Real</i> Review

Whoever Mary Timony’s singing to on It’s Real, Ex Hex’s sophomore follow up to 2014’s Rips, they’ve taken her on one dizzying rollercoaster ride. From start to end, It’s Real warps around “you,” more than likely the same person all the way through the record’s track list; Timony sings the same yearning for “you” on the opening song, “Tough Enough,” and on “Good Times,” “Want It to Be True,” all the way to “Talk to Me,” where Timony appeals to her nameless audience to grant her the simple courtesy of a conversation.

“If you shut me down, will all be lost in space and time? / I’ll wade into your stormy sea,” she croons, vulnerable but possessed of steely dignity. It takes immense strength of spirit to guide a boat over rough waters, and “It’s Real” charts a perilous course: The second track, “Rainbow Shiner,” soberly rings with implied violence, a document of triumph through “the black and blue.” If anyone wishes to make the case that Timony intends to address more than one subject, “Rainbow Shiner” is a good place to start; this song feels aimed at someone she’s breaking away from rather than someone she’s trying to get closer to. But maybe It’s Real, in keeping with its title, means to acknowledge complications of the heart. Maybe the one Timony got all the black and blue from is the same one she ran from shadows with in “Cosmic Cave.”

Following It’s Real’s unifying thread is a complex task. The music, granted, isn’t as complex, in the sense that the music itself requires no moralizing for engagement: It’s great, unqualified awesomeness soaked in ‘80s and ‘90s rock ‘n roll, echoing anyone and everyone from Joan Jett to Sleater-Kinney to Scorpions and even to Tsunami Bomb. But here rests the line of delineation. Folks who don’t appreciate an aesthetic planted firmly in the eras of grunge and Camaro rock likely won’t change their tune on hearing It’s Real’s stomping power-pop stylings (assuming they’re generous enough to give it a shot in the first place). People who read that description as a promise of Good Times, on the other hand, will embrace It’s Real as Ex Hex’s return to the modern day rock ecosystem.

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There’s a gentle hand needed to make music with as much edge as Ex Hex’s sound so tender through the crackle and buzz of distortion pedals and the confident strut-worthy boom of Laura Harris’ drums. In some cases, the music actually sounds reckless: “This illusion of love is coming to ya,” sings Timony on “Diamond Drive. “The dots are moving on, and the lines are keeping time.” Calling back to “You Fell Apart” from Rips, Timony starts pointing out the “creeps” catching up to her. She doesn’t want the driver to crash, but boy, she wants to get the hell away from the creeps as they swing around on chandeliers. Between the creeps and a crash, the latter sounds preferable. If you’re going to wreck a car, might as well wreck it with the volume cranked up.

But the key word in “Diamond Drive” is “illusion.” It’s used on a recurring basis over the course of It’s Real, not only in “Diamond Drive” but “Another Dimension” and “Cosmic Cave” Was the love between Timony and her listener real? Did she just imagine the whole relationship? “We hung our minds / on an illusion of our love,” she muses on “Cosmic Cave.” If it was an illusion, it’s a remarkably substantial one. She can’t forget the experience she had with this person, however good or bad they might have been. She went so far as to craft an album about those experiences, after all.

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On It’s Real, the group’s second album, Ex Hex’s commitment to larger-than-life riffs and unforgettable hooks remains intact, but the garage-y, post-punk approach that defined their debut album Rips has grown in scale and ambition. What started as a reaction to the blown-out aesthetic of Rips would test the sonic limits of the power trio and lead the band on a quest for a more immersive and three-dimensional sound. Vocal harmonies are layered ten tracks deep, solos shimmer and modulate atop heaving power chords, and the codas linger and stretch toward new frontiers of sound. On first listen, you might think you’ve unearthed a long-lost LP carved from the space where crunch-minded art rock and glitter-covered hard rock converge, an event horizon at the intersection of towering choruses and swaggering guitars.

Ex Hex were already one of America’s best guitar bands—but on It’s Real, their musical savvy has thrillingly combined with anything-goes curiosity, studio experimentation, and a dedication to refinement, resulting in an album that’s ready to be played at maximum volume.

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From the album It’s Real, out March 22nd, 2019 on Merge Records.

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Ex-Hex, the veteran Washington D.C. power-trio, released the second single from their forthcoming album, and it’s a riffy slice of glorious, focused pop. Ex Hex have released the music video for their new song “Tough Enough,” the opening track from their forthcoming album “It’s Real”, due out March 22nd from Merge Records. The riff-forward DIY sound from the Ex Hex trio in “Tough Enough” finds its match with the video’s fuzzed-out, basement-show setting and apocalyptic conflict. As they riff around its low-scale flash, it’s apparent that the power trio’s ability to utilize the noise around them is the true star of the video. The band explain in a statement that the single is “all about three-dimensional power chords interplaying with whammy dive bombs. It’s a song about turning on your tough switch and forging ahead through whatever storms are happening around you ’cause you have no choice.”

From the album It’s Real, out March 22nd, 2019 on Merge Records.

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Washington DC power rock group Ex Hex came onto the scene in 2014 with their excellent, loud debut Rips. Filled with big, raucous waves of guitar, the album embodied the type of rock ‘n’ roll that genre devotees were hungry for, which made sense; Mary Timony, founder of the influential ‘90s riot grrrl group Helium, helms the group alongside Betsy Wright on guitar and Laura Harris on drums. Their second studio album, It’s Real, which arrives March 22nd via Merge Records, along with the premiere of “Cosmic Cave” a guitar-shimmering single that Timony calls “Old style Ex Hex.” It’s lively garage rock with a bittersweet swirl of a chorus and cavernous-sounding embellishments, best experienced beyond the boundaries of headphones.

Timony and Wright explained that It’s Real found its form through the deliberate collaboration between the pair  their knack for continuous refinement feeding into their tightness in sound, execution, and their will to experiment. Whether it’s recording with ten amps at once or indulging in the weird effects of an old ‘80s headphone amp, Ex Hex are fully devoted to crafting the best sounds for blaring at maximum volume.

From the album It’s Real, out March 22nd, 2019 on Merge Records.