On Hard Love, Showalter brazenly leaves his folkier, electro-tinged past behind him in favor of a more visceral, potent sound. The raw emotions coursing through these songs remain fragile, but are far less fractured than they were on his 2014 breakthrough album, HEAL.
With Hard Love, the churning, confessional beauty of Strand of Oaks' last album, 2014's HEAL, is present, but there is an added ruthlessness.
Written by a person whose conscience seems to keep him from having too much fun, Hard Love is a conflicted yet summarily good record that breathes new life into good ol' rock'n'roll.
Hard Love is overstuffed and perhaps a bit overambitious, but repeated listening will reap ample rewards.
Hard Love is an aptly named salute to the myriad complexities of intimacy, the nature of comeuppance, and the difficulties of navigating forward in the cruel wake of youth.
Most crucial of Showalter’s checks here, perhaps, are his beloved stadium reach that stops just short of bombast, and his emotional directness that avoids explicit outpouring. It’s a neat trick to pull off.
At some points, Showalter’s songwriting is so harrowing that you can literally feel his pain. And that makes sense because Showalter only writes what he knows. With the help of producer Nicolas Vernhes, Showalter makes sure that you feel everything he experiences.
Hard Love never really adds up to a particularly clear or bold statement; there are some strong songs and big moments, but very little that moves the story forward or develops that rich character.
It’s a solipsistic affair: and while his good intentions to smarten up his drug-sozzled, road-weary life may be commendable, they don’t necessarily make “Quit It” any more agreeable.