Scott Hardware - Ballad of a Tryhard Music Album Reviews

Scott Hardware - Ballad of a Tryhard Music Album Reviews
Accompanied by strings, sax, and piano, the Toronto musician sorts through his past on an intimate collection of orchestral pop, bursting with hooks.

After a period of intense searching, Scott Hardware finally took a vacation. While writing his third album, the Toronto songwriter travelled to the quiet city of Elche, Spain for an idyllic escape with his romantic partner. Naturally, this lush setting on the southeast coast of the Mediterranean Sea inspired him to adorn his music with ornate arrangements of strings, sax, and piano, resulting in a pristine atmosphere drifting dangerously close to adult contemporary. In comparison to the spiky disco grooves and decaying electronic passages of his previous album, 2020’s Engel, these 10 songs are disarmingly earnest and boldly uncool—and all the more beautiful because of it.

As a collaborator, Hardware has bounced around the Toronto scene for years, playing with drone-rockers Ostrich Tuning and bristling post-punks WHIMM. His earliest synth-pop solo offerings arrived under the name Ken Park, before a move to Berlin influenced the techno-flirting sound of 2016’s Mutate Repeat Infinity, the first album credited to Scott Hardware. “I imagine dance music as hallowed ground,” he explained at that time, paying tribute to a generation lost to the HIV/AIDS crisis while writing evocatively about his own queerness.

Four years later, Hardware was still yearning. The transitional nature of 2020’s Engel stripped his desires down to a raw and vulnerable mess of meaty stumps as he attempted to overcome emotional blocks. That album crescendoed with the skyrocketing hi-hats of “Joy,” yet Hardware revealed that he only experienced the passion described in his lyrics second-hand: “I was seeing somebody and thinking ‘I’m supposed to feel something,’” he confessed. Ballad of a Tryhard brings those buried emotions up to the surface and into the sky, like a plane pulling a banner to profess his romance to the world.

Hardware’s soft, nimble voice has earned comparisons to Thom Yorke, but the Radiohead frontman wouldn’t dare sing lyrics this direct. (“Here with a love I’m not worthy of,” he sings. “And full with a strength I can’t take away.”) Tugged by glammy guitar riffs, “Love Through the Trees” makes the shift in perspective clear. While he seemed inconsolable in the past, Hardware admits that finding a connection has softened his edges: “We both know that don’t come around that often,” he adds. “Metaterranean” plunges into his European getaway in medias res, as he leafs through a book of common phrases and sips cola in the salty sea air. Yet despite the peaceful atmosphere, Hardware can’t escape his anxieties: “I go somewhere else and I sing the same song.”

The intimate “Is Something Wrong Tonight” uses a lovers’ quarrel as a springboard to reflect on the fights that fade like shooting stars, “burning out and gone without a sound.” Hardware has always excelled at conjuring tactile imagery, as on “Joy,” when he tasted someone who reminded him of cinnamon, and dug his hands through the dirt in search of deeper sensations. On this album’s catchiest song, “Watersnake,” he flashes back to a childhood memory of reptiles slithering across the lake near his mom’s home. Bolstered by swooning strings, there is an understated intensity to Hardware’s voice as he vividly describes a person from his past returning to interrupt his tranquillity and “make a meal of a swimmer’s peace.”

With the deft touch of co-producer Matt Smith, who releases electronic music as Prince Nifty, Hardware lets his guard down. Frequent collaborators such as drummer Jonathan Pappo dance around these agile arrangements, and some of the most stunning moments are when Hardware is accompanied by guest vocalist Caitlin Woelfle-O’Brien of the Toronto band Jaunt. On previous releases, striking melodies were hidden between haunting experiments, but Ballad of a Tryhard is a relatively straightforward collection of orchestral pop, bursting with hooks. Like the heartfelt folk songs of Amen Dunes’ Love, it is a grand step towards traditional songcraft.

The lyrics on Ballad of a Tryhard sort through Hardware’s past, using wistful sense memories to examine how he’s arrived in the present moment. In “Bootleg,” he is a teenager basking in the glow of the television, late at night, alone; in “Another Day Ending,” he zooms to the present day, reaching out for solace and resting his head in his boyfriend’s lap. Songs this sincere, presented with such sophisticated arrangements, have a risk of becoming overly sentimental, but in Hardware’s hands they feel singular and personal. No matter which point in time or which place on the map his music brings us, he feels close enough for us to reach out and touch him.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Scott Hardware - Ballad of a Tryhard Music Album Reviews Scott Hardware - Ballad of a Tryhard Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on March 10, 2022 Rating: 5


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