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ATP! Album Review: Hostage Calm – Please Remain Calm

With any follow-up to a great record, you worry: how can the band keep things interesting without drastically changing their style enough to betray their fans? Most bands turn to experimentation to rework their sound mid-career, but despite all its progressive elements, "Please Remain Calm" was anything but an experiment. Hostage Calm’s sound is, by nature, innovative, and they’ve defined themselves through a very deliberate manipulation of tone color. While their third full-length is undeniably characteristic of the band, that character comes with novel progression. And this time, it’s generation-defining.

Along with early release 'Brokenheartland', opening tracks 'On Both Eyes' and 'Don’t Die On Me Now' revisit ‘90s melodies based on chord progressions too far along the "pop" scale for many hardcore bands to touch. The Gin Blossoms-feel to the intro of 'Woke Up Next To A Body' carries the album into its most introverted track - the one you listen to when you need to get lost inside your own head. The handclaps of 'Impossible!' suddenly pull the mood up, along with the familiar dual-guitar synchronization whose rhythmic developments and new distortions add texture, retracting any predictability. 

'May Love Prevail' (another early album tease released last month) continues to tread along familiar Hostage Calm territory by bringing back the doo-wop, but the vintage style’s continuation on 'The ‘M’ Word' takes the album to its biggest progression from their sophomore self-titled, with lovesick vocals reminiscent of the Beatles and their politically tumultuous era that seems to be coming around again. With the introductions of a romantic violin and Latin horn, you’re now staring at the dance floor of an all-American high school prom and all of its first-loves, wise enough to know the lives of today’s youth are about to go downhill (“It’s a sad time to be young/knowing the worst has just begun”).

And then there’s 'Patriot'. This song will shake every cell in your body, especially if Hostage Calm can pull this one off live. Driving itself into a cross-country lovesong, we are shown what happens when a phenomenal band tours nonstop: instead of the cliché songs about homesickness and life on the road, you get emblematic, tongue-in-cheek Americana lyrics (“Oh say can’t you see/that they’ve taken you from me”) in a roadtrip-acapella with a rustic guitar solo and a fade-out. That is what is feels like to miss somebody.

Straight-up guitar leads beg a sweaty crowd to clap along with 'Closing Remarks', and you’re still catching your breath as the album closes with 'One Last Salute'. As the longest song on the album, this is the grand finale of the sinfonietta, where sleigh bells and sudden upheavals of percussion are wrung out hard, all surmounting to the feedback of a guitar you throw down and walk away from, fucking proud of what you just did.

The ender is the accumulation of everything Hostage Calm can do better than anyone else today. They’ve maintained their trademark, but created a new, retrospective vision of their sound. They’ve embellished the sophistication of their musicianship without pretentiousness. And most importantly, they’ve become a voice for their fans and taken back the purpose of American hardcore that so many bands have forgotten.


Carolyn Vallejo 

"Please Remain Calm" is out on October 9th via Run For Cover Records.

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