College produces many of the finest musicians, and Blvck Hippie is no exception. Born out of guitarist and vocalist Josh Shaw’s junior year dorm, the self-described “sad boy indie rock band” was titled based on a nickname he got from his mom. The group, composed of Casey Rittnger on drums and Tyler Marberry on bass in addition to Josh’s vocals and guitar, combines dark lyrics about grief and love lost “with dreamy guitars and stylistic drums to create ‘VHS’ inspired rock.”
Blvck Hippie has a double single (“When / Cloudy Days”) and a tour under their belts, and have recently also released a self-titled EP. Overall, the EP is a truly unique entity, but its glowing instrumentals and flowing vocals give it an aesthetic that would be a wonderful listen for fans of the indie, classic rock, and pop rock genres.
The first track of the EP is titled “Zoey.” The song begins with a balmy guitar line and well-placed, light cymbal work and a touch of percussion. The bassline is mellow and blends into the background, but still provides just enough support on the low end for the guitar to really work with the vocals to create the melody of the song. Josh’s voice is free-flowing and sweet, the perfect match for the style of the rest of the track’s components. The energy in “Zoey” is tangible in every piece of the puzzle, giving it a wonderful pace and stamina through the track’s transitions, of which there are many in its 5:48 running time. One of the best is the final section of the song, which allows the guitar to take on a new role: Instead of carrying its typical melody, the guitar is allowed to rise and fall in waves of emotion, almost becoming the wordless lyrics of the final moments of the track.
Putting the longest song first is an interesting artistic choice, but in the case of “Zoey,” the right one. Although we return to the same dripping, melodic theme throughout, the track doesn’t feel overly repetitive thanks to shifts in energy and its lyricism, with and without actual words.
The percussion of “Hotel Lobby” leads us into a track that has obvious 60’s Doo-Wop and rock influences that make the song utterly unique, and a stand-out in the EP. With trickling guitar picking and thumping background vocals, “Hotel Lobby” is a complex love story in terms of instrumentals as well as lyrics. The words tell a story as well, avoiding overused cliches in favor of a frank, open-letter format: “I was waiting on the elevator / I saw your face as the doors closed….The first night I noticed that dimple in your smile / And the tattoo on your wrist / Of a band from the eighties that you swore was cool….” The track feels like a full love story captured in a few, well-selected moments. “Hotel Lobby” has the perfect mix of specific lyrics, old-school charm, and new elements that makes an unforgettable track.
Like all of Blvck Hippie’s songs, “Belong” is a high-quality recording with top-notch talent from all band members. The perfect example of that “dreamy” quality Blvck Hippie claimed as part of their label, “Belong” seems to float through its 3:24 running time. The guitar is at the forefront of the mix, creating a light, airy feel through the majority of the song as the vocals glide on top. Although the lyrics are a bit harder to understand than in other tracks due to the crowding in the high end of the mix, they have a similar story-telling quality as those in “Hotel Lobby” with lines such as “Take me back to when your voice was all I heard” and “The mind protects what’s inside the wall / I guess you were right all along.”I would love a more prominent bassline in “Belong,” which would take some of the load off of the vocals and allow the lyrics a greater audibility.
“Mansion” brings the record back around to the sunnier side of Blvck Hippie’s musical spectrum. As far as final songs go, “Mansion” is a strong example of ending with a bang. Although some sections felt a bit rushed, the track has a great energy to it that makes you never want to stop listening. The instrumentals are interesting and dynamic, not shifting to worry about the vocals, but taking their own bold track. The lyrics are a bit hard to understand, but are well-phrased so the sounds of the vocals themselves work in the song’s favor as another instrument regardless. The echoing effects placed on them during the final minute of the track don;t help with hearing the meaning of the track, but do allow a sense of finality for the record as a whole.
Blvck Hippie is currently writing and performing new material to be recorded in the winter. Plans are in the works for another tour in summer 2020.
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***Like the majority of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post.***