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Hinds - The Prettiest Curse Music Album Reviews

On their third album, the Spanish garage rockers swing for the fences with a big, arena-friendly new sound. 

The Spanish garage-rock group Hinds built their first two albums on girl-group harmonies and tight melodic songcraft recalling the Strokes or Black Lips. So what did Carlotta Cosials, one of the band’s frontwomen, mean when she recently told NME, “We’d been afraid of pop music for a lot of years”? Maybe she was thinking of drum machines and synthesizers, Diplo and David Guetta. Whatever the case, the trappings of lo-fi garage rock haven’t done much to disguise her band’s own popular appeal.
Now, though, Hinds are claiming to have shed their fear, and the band is billing its third album, The Prettiest Curse, as a turn to pop. What that means in practice is an expanded arsenal of instruments and a reduced sense of musical identity. The Prettiest Curse is glossier than 2018’s I Don’t Run, higher-fidelity in places, and sprinkled with synthesizers. At its best, the album is able to build on Hinds’ previous approach. But it’s less consistent than their last two albums, and fans may not be able to shake the feeling that an extraordinarily efficient machine has been upgraded for a slicker model that doesn’t work all that much better.

First single “Riding Solo” signals the band’s new ambitions with an arena-sized drum pound and a whistling synth. The chorus takes the band’s usual singalong and multiplies the backing vocals to give it the feeling of a live performance—or at least an ’80s-style hair-metal concert video. It’s hugely catchy and successful, and it sounds bigger than anything the band’s done before.

The issues with the album spring not so much from what’s missing as from what’s present—the songs are just too busy. The band worked with the producer Jenn Decilveo (Albert Hammond Jr., Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan) and whether it was her decision or someone else’s, the mixes here are more cluttered than they need to be. On “Waiting for You,” which turns what might be a complaint about a flaky boyfriend into a call for solidarity, that amplifying effect on the backing vocals shows up again, and this time it disguises the chemistry between Cosials and co-frontwoman Ana Perrote, whose back-and-forth vocals are the best thing the band has going.

Still, there’s plenty of worthwhile material here. “Boy” is as raucous, obstinate and fun as anything Hinds has released. It provides an ideal synthesis of the “rock” Hinds and the “pop” Hinds, and while your reaction depends on how you feel about shoutalong choruses and arena-friendly pop-punk, coming from this band it certainly sounds fresh.

The Spanish lyrics are another welcome development, which show up for the first time in their music, starting with the thumping, neon opener “Good Bad Times.” There’s something encouraging about the presence of the band’s native language. Whereas the traditional “turn to pop” often feels forced, as if demanded by an out-of-touch record label exec, the Spanish here speaks to their growing comfort in trying new things. They may have slightly diluted their sound this time around, but at least they’re struggling on their own terms. The highlights suggest there is an arena-friendly Hinds out there, still waiting to emerge in full.

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