Summer forever? Columbus shift gear with the second album A Hot Take on Heartbreak.
Columbus are one of the up-and-coming bands in the alternative music scene that you should know about. Their debut LP, Spring Forever, gained mass critical acclaim and rightly so. It is a collection of pop-punk/punk-rock/pop-rock hits that span every mood and emotion. In short, it is incredible. I fell in love with Columbus when they supported and outshone ROAM on their UK tour a few years back. Ever since I have been hooked. Naturally, the announcement of a new record filled me with excitement and I was keen to see how the Brisbane boys would fair with the difficult ‘second-album-syndrome’.
Don’t Know How to Act is the lead single and opening track of the album. No pressure then. When I first heard this it I was shocked, gone were the trashy chords and long, raspy notes from vocalist Alex Moses. Instead, the track opens in a lackadaisical manner, falling from loosely strummed chords and plodding drums in the opening verse. The harmonies in the chorus are, again, a different flavour from what we are used to from the band. They blur the raspy tones of Moses into a softer sound, emphasising the sing-a-long nature of the band’s latest venture. Despite the initial shock you might experience when you hear this song, I can guarantee that after a few listens you will be left humming along to “I don’t know how to act when I’m around you”. In fact, the ending of the song sees this line refrained a multitude of time. As it rolls through, the influence for the album becomes clear. The record is one of juvenile lust, one that pays homage to the early 2000’s pop-rock sound. Man, it does it well.
The next section of this review will touch on the “woos” and “oohs” of the record. Care At All is, to put it frankly, the ultimate summer tune. The “ooh-oohs” that are harmonised throughout this song bring it to life. The track harbours a huge, catchy chorus which results in an all-around, wonderful summer ditty. The drums give this song its vibrancy, showcasing moments of incredible flare. Out This Week is cut from a similar piece of cloth. It features another catchy refrain and plethora of funky “oohs”. The vocals that open the song are some of the softest seen since the band’s single, Nervous Wreck from their first album. However, these are quickly shattered in the chorus. We are met with yet another head bobbing, sing-a-long number that makes you want to smile. From here, the breakdown dances through notes in a way that is utterly unique. The message of the album is seen to shift with this track. With lyrics such as “I’m not tired I am just worn out this week”, the band have gone from being coy and love-struck to hinting at heavy heartbreak. Finally, the ninth track of the album, Difficult Conversations completes the “woo-ooh” trio. The outro of this song is built on the flippant use of “woos” and “oohs”. It juxtaposes the more sombre opening of the track, the piano and melancholic lyrics drag us into the song with a heavy heart. The distanced refrain of “you and me” really does a good job at trying to tug at the heartstrings. Luckily, the chorus is huge. It is bouncy and really captures the ups and downs of despair. All in all, it is great.
Unfortunately, Woke Up With a Heart Attack, falls a little short of its peers. The song feels a little flat. While it seems to be a love ballad at its core, it struggles to stand out as a killer song. Unlike the rest of the album, there is no real hook and the song kind of drifts by. It isn’t a bad song, I must stress that, however, I don’t think I will be buzzing to hear it when I put the album on to accompany a BBQ. In a similar vein, Feel This Way doesn’t do a lot for me. Although it is the closing song and brings the mood back down, I don’t feel that it truly provides A Hot Take on Heartbreak. What makes this album special is the unique manner in which it addresses lust, its upbeat nature perfectly encompasses the emotions we all have felt at some point in our adolescence. However, this song approaches it from a rather static angle. As a softer, acoustic ditty I understand that it does not harbour the same energy as other songs on the album. However, it doesn’t build into anything. With this track, I feel as though for the first time in their discography, Columbus have played it a little safe. I hope this one is a grower.
Luckily, the band give us more. Feelin Low, again, plays with vocal harmonies which give the song a unique flavour. The song continually threatens to pop-off, but the beauty of it is that it never does. The suspense built in this one gives us flashes of the Spring Forever Columbus sound. I think this should have been a single, it is interesting and brings the message of the album to life perfectly. My favourite track by far. Cut It Out is of a similar in nature, however, this one gives us the bang that we have been looking for. This track has a bit of bite to it, especially compared to its predecessors. The drums play a big part in elevating this track, giving it that crunch. While most of this album will make you nod your head, this one is a little more forceful in doing so.
Given Up and Piece of Shit really show flashes of the band’s influences. Given Up lets us know that melancholy has never sounded so good. It blurs the trademark Columbus sound with the aura of early 2000’s alt-rock, pop-banger energy about it. The chorus is fun and catchy and the whole song resonates around its hook. Although I am sure it has already been done a thousand times, comparisons have to be drawn to the Weezer-esque sound of this one. Similarly, Piece of Shit is a little number that could have hailed from the 2000s. The guitar in the verse is basic but powerful and bounces into a head-nodding banger. Who knew such a simple, blunt statement could resonate so sharply with the listener. The screamed “shit, shit, shit, SHIT” in the breakdown intensifies the juvenile vibe of this one further. An all-around tune.
Columbus have swapped sweaty beers in the basement for Pimms under the veranda. I love this album for one reason, it feels as though it was made with love. Whether the boys have grown up a little or have just found their musical sound, it is relaxed and measured. Sure, some of the tracks may not have immediately grabbed me, but I am sure that when the summer rolls around and I am looking for an album to spin, it will be this one. I am excited to see what happens with Columbus, I am sure that this album will propel them to have some form of mainstream success. If you like the summer, happiness and all-round fun – listen to this album (even if it just for the cool name alone).