Review: Hall Johnson, Haymaker

Childhood friends capture young independence and its teething struggles

Review: Hall Johnson, <i>Haymaker</i>

Apt for an album recorded in a studio on a Connecticut farm two summers ago, surf rock quartet Hall Johnson's debut LP Haymaker plays like the soundtrack of a summer-contained coming-of-age film. Beneath bright, radiant dreaminess, the childhood friends' 31-minute release captures young independence and its teething struggles in 11 tracks brimming with sincerity. Soaked in warm nostalgia, smooth vocal harmonies and ebullient riffs reverberate in opener "Barefoot," while follow-up "OMWO" wraps anxious affection in dulcet trumpet tones. As crashing cymbals wash over "Daytona," lead singer Milo Cortese articulates an uneasy realization epitomizing the record: "There was always a lifeguard when I was younger and now I'm older." Acoustic guitar-driven "Sun Don't Set" eases the record into a slightly slower, mellower B-side of existential reveries that blur sonically into one. Still juxtaposed against buoyant riffs, emotional standouts "Utilitarian" and "Art Museum" reveal Cortese's anticipatory anxieties and frazzled disorientation, respectively. Undergirded by a light, poised bassline, "Hospitals" bares the aching reluctance to give up on a loved one. As the bittersweet closer "Relevant" slows into a sonorous trumpet postlude, Haymaker has beaten the point to death: Growing pains do not discriminate, the comforting universality of which proves consolation enough.

Hall Johnson

Haymaker (The Record Machine)

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Hall Johnson, Milo Cortese, The Record Machine Haymaker

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