When musical trends are as painfully prevalent as they have been in the past, it is refreshing to discover that there is a band that plays music for the sake of playing music. Tooth & Nail Records’ newest group, Hearts Like Lions, is one of those bands.
Their debut EP These Hands demonstrates their dedication. Just because Hearts like Lions doesn’t follow a specific musical trend does not necessarily mean the band is totally original—in fact, upon first listen you will immediately hear undeniable similarities to T&N powerhouse, The Almost. But These Hands introduces us to a fresh, raw alternative rock band with loads of potential.
This young, three-piece group from Long Beach, CA combines a simple, crunchy alt-rock sound with openly spiritual lyrics throughout the six-track EP. These Hands – EP opens with “Wake Up,” whose first couple minutes of airy guitars and reverberating drums provide a soundscape similar to what can be found in an Ascend the Hill song. But the track instantly becomes engaging about midway through, when it explodes into full energy with edgy vocals as singer Stephen Ramos declares, “I’m sick and tired of these people living like they don’t want anything to do with Him.”
If that moment does not prove why the band deserves your attention, the second track (and the band’s first single) “Stranger” will do the trick. It takes the momentum built in “Wake Up” into a surprisingly catchier direction with fun guitar parts and memorable melodies. The song screams nostalgia with its summery mid-tempo chorus, and will easily become a favorite amongst listeners.
“Trust Me” and “Man of Dust” continue the patterns of the first two tracks with more crisp guitars, punchy bass, and energetic drumming. All three musicians provide high-quality instrumentation, and the parts blend together so seamlessly that it sounds like the band has been playing together much longer than it actually has.
The last two tracks of the EP shift to a darker tone, occasionally revisiting the echoic, indie guitar riffs found in “Wake Up.” The lyrics tend to be simplistic and a bit awkwardly placed at times, but they also showcase Ramos’ obvious passion with lines like, “Father, I’ve been drowning/But I’m not running away from this, I swear.”
Stephen Ramos’ vocals are far from unique, sounding almost identical to The Almost singer Aaron Gillespie. There are also slight similarities to former Saosin vocalist Cove Reber when he explores his higher range. Despite these resemblances, Ramos’ style and tone are enjoyable and compliment the band’s overall sound.
Hearts Like Lions have a lot going for them. They play a genre that is not often done but is very much loved, and they do it impressively. The EP is not flawless—the band’s lyricism can still be refined and they have yet to escape the sound-alike radar, but These Hands – EP is a fun and intriguing alt-rock debut that promises even greater future releases. Hearts Like Lions is definitely worth keeping an eye out for.