The cult of personality that tends to engulf a lot of indie-rock and garage-rock doesn’t seem to have reached Hinds yet, and it’s difficult to see why. Up to now they’ve released two full-lengths, and while neither have been anything tremendous, there’s been a smaller, homespun quality to them both that’s nowhere near as driven purely by stylistic affectation in a way that so many of their ilk are. That’s not to say that Hinds are all that distinct in the long run – a blend of The Strokes and Mac DeMarco doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for that – but there’s a sense of personality within this band that’s been kept very prominent throughout. It’s also something they appear to be leaning into more heavily on their new album The Prettiest Curse, not only in serving as a natural next step for their garage-rock template, but also incorporating more musical influences from their native Spain.
And as such, The Prettiest Curse does indeed feel like a Hinds album in which the Spanish influence is a bit more prominent. That might sound rather reductive, but that’s effectively what this album offers, in more of the same with a slight sonic twist. And yet, that isn’t to this album’s detriment at all, mostly because Hinds already have a rock-solid foundation that also allows for new elements to come in and spice it up, even by just a small amount. The Prettiest Curse, therefore, comes across like a fairly natural extension, but a neat galvanisation in a way that wasn’t necessarily needed but is most definitely appreciated; even if that influence only comes in mood or vibe a lot of the time, the quality of the results really does speak for itself.
It’s not like Hinds have totally eschewed familiarity either, with most, if not all of The Prettiest Curse still having a lot of hold onto within indie-rock and garage-rock. That’s predominantly found in the writing, and it’s the area where Hinds impress the least simply through how much that familiarity and thematic narrowness can take hold. Sure, the choice made to sing in Spanish for portions of these songs is a good one, especially in terms of damage mitigation that comes from the natural rhythm and groove of the cadence, but The Prettiest Curse is never really swinging for the fences when it comes to lyricism, opting instead to stick more fervently to its smaller-scale roots. Song about relationships and touring aren’t bad in principle – they’re actually executed rather well here – but they don’t stand out a lot, and make this album feel smaller than it otherwise is. It’s a different story on songs like Just Like Kids (Miau) and Burn, which see Hinds chiding condescending men who’ll belittle them because they’re an all-female band with a decent amount of bite and wit (even if the former toes the line of full-on obnoxiousness incredibly precariously), and shows a bit more daring in their formula that would be worth embracing a bit more wholeheartedly.
Thankfully that shows up a lot more in the overall sound of this album, in which Hinds seem to have more or less perfected their balance between roughened garage-rock pickups and a pop focus that actually serves the song rather than being perfunctorily wedged in. Opener Good Bad Times is a borderline perfect example of this; it’s definitely a bit smoother and more polished than a lot of what Hinds offer here, but there’s a rumbling core to it thanks to the fatter bass and percussion, providing a great foundation for the cascades of synths and a phenomenal pop hook. Elsewhere, there’s a noisier, more off-the-cuff feel to Boy and The Play that’s more closely related to garage-rock, though with a bit more expanse to ensure that palatability at the hands of squealing lo-fi filters isn’t sacrificed, and while the closer This Moment Forever sees the band stray a bit too far out of their wheelhouse in a smoky, understated ballad, from a sonic perspective, it still feels more alive in comparison to their contemporaries. That’s thanks to a production job that makes The Prettiest Curse feel a lot more lithe and less subject to nailing itself down under blocks of fuzz and distortion, and when that results in the bossa nova sway of Come Back And Love Me < 3 at its peak, Hinds reveal themselves as a band who can still meet a lot of the modern garage-rock criteria without being boxed in by it. That’s all on top of Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote both being distinct and unique vocal presences, and the fact their interplay and overall execution doesn’t feel as tight or micromanaged as a bigger band would have it be does ultimately help them when it comes to that malleability in sound. It feels natural and flowing, and as Hinds continue to reshape what’s considered the norm pretty much across the board here, what’s left is one of garage-rock’s most playful and distinctive concoctions in some time.
Granted, the fact it’s all kept so tight means that Hinds aren’t able to go too far out of their comfort zone, but that’s more of a positive than it may seem. It prevents the band from becoming lost or overwhelmed in a palette of sound that’s too wide; here, they remained firmly anchored down but with enough wiggle room to remould what they have into something a lot more enjoyable. That’s where The Prettiest Curse’s greatest strength lies, and how that serves an increased longevity that most garage-rock seems to be totally allergic to. Hind’s remain attached to their influences but not subdued by them, and that leads to an album that feels more exciting overall, even if those remaining threads can still be easily traced. It’s all good stuff pretty much across the board, and Hinds sinking into it as well as they do only makes that consistently better.
For fans of: Sunflower Bean, Honeyblood, Dream Wife
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Prettiest Curse’ by Hinds is released on 5th June on Lucky Number Records.