Blush Response – Hearts Grow Dull

The debut album from Australian shoegazers Blush Response, Hearts Grow Dull, is a lush and reverb soaked gem bringing pop shimmer back to the genre. 

Sarah Lay reviews. 

Label: Self-released
Released: 4 April 2018

Hearts Grow Dull, the debut album from Australian four-piece Blush Response, has been a while in the making. Arriving in a hazy dreampop fug with two EPs back in 2014 they’ve been working on the album since and the slow-burn of careful attention is evident throughout the lush and reverb-laden gem of a record.

Over those four years shoegaze has made a steady return, with fuzz being a la mode as the genre comes back around in a generational cycle. And there’s plenty across this album which harks back to that early ’90s emergent sound – Mazzy Star, Slowdive, a de-fanged but still delectable MBV – but it sits alongside contemporaries like The Pains Of Being Pure At HeartPeace and JAWS too.

Opener Blasphemy certainly has classic leanings – the echoing guitar and soft-focus vocals of the intro before fully blooming into the chorus. Setting the tone for the rest of the record the rhythm section is kept higher in the mix and sharp, anchoring the track so it doesn’t drift too far on the tides of reverb.

Across the rest of the album the shoegaze sound remains but gets a healthy dose of upbeat pop nous to add interest and nudge your senses, stopping the slide into flat out trance with just the right amount of focus. It works well on more upbeat tracks Cruel, and The Week The Never Was – this latter a spiralling more new wave take on the sound with clipped drums once again gunning through the haze, driving the tracks rather than being a limit applied.

Closer Safe And Sound adds a bit more bite and becomes more definite in its loud/quiet dynamics. It completes not only the album but a trilogy of songs across the record all dealing with feelings around long-distance relationships and while title track Hearts Grow Dull and Horizon both sink into the emotional mire of the situation Safe And Sound brings a glimmer of hope. All three takes on the situation show the songwriting chops of Alister Douglas as he deconstructs his inner world while also bruising the outward melodies with uppercuts of fuzzy guitars.

Introspective, carefully constructed, and well balanced the time it took to bring this record to the world was well spent.With production much bigger than the DIY approach usually succeeds with, and dreamy but honest moments of reflection this album is a gentle finger beneath your chin, lifting your eyes from the floor toward a sunlit sky.

A promising and beautiful next step for this band – should they keep pushing their sound, stay true to their hearts, and play around further with the norm of shoegaze dynamics future releases are sure to shoot straight to the top of any genre fans must listen list, but in the meantime it’s with hearts anything but dull we hit repeat on their debut and sink between its warm layers once more.

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica. A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist. Follow her @sarahlay

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