An alert pops up on your phone with some more bad news, a friend posts another terrible story online, and we react. The last 18 months or so specifically have solidified this reaction; we're on edge, with everything changing instantly around us as we desperately try to keep up.
Heirloom Qualities, the newest release from New Sincerity Works, does not fit this mold, and in fact seems to make a specific point to upend this mindset. Upon hitting play on my first listen, I may or may not have quietly cursed my computer, thinking, “Why aren’t you playing?” as the instant sounds I expected to emanate from my speakers were simply not there. Those frustrations quickly, and yet slowly, gently, were allayed as the opening strains of "List of What Was Done" welled up, fading into a song with a very familiar NSW vibe.
“The world’s an open book, but you forgot to take a look,” the first lines implore.
That isn't to say that Heirloom is predictable or rehashed - in fact, it's the most sonically expansive release to date - but there is an unmistakable air to an NSW song. It’s no small feat to have such a distinct sonic fingerprint while keeping the songs fresh and the music dynamic. In fact, after the first listen to Heirloom, I felt compelled to go back and listen to NSW’s older records. I dusted off my well-worn vinyl copy of Wonder Lust and dialed up Nowadays on Spotify to cue my ear for the subtleties of a new album.
Overall, Heirloom seems to have more distinct spaces carved out for all the distinct musical voices contained within the band. The synths feel more present, the harmony vocals feel more personal, and all the various instruments feel more alive. The guitar mastery of Roger Klug, apparent on the entire NSW catalog, feels especially fearless throughout; "Asking For a Friend" has that bright, fuzzy vibe that makes it feel like a lost track from the Toxic and Fifteen Other Love Songs sessions.
While the songs lyrically run the gamut of so many emotions in the arc of a relationship, so much of the record feels like falling in love all over again - a song-by-song walk through discovering those strangely deepening feelings. It’s difficult to really “review” this record - partly because, if you like NSW, you will absolutely like this record - but also because it’s just a damn fine record. The word I continually come back to to describe the songwriting, as well as the performances, is “earnest.” No note is wasted, and no rest is taken for granted. This is an album full of catchy, honest, masterfully-crafted songs, not designed, but simply offered. “Here they are, come and enjoy them,” the record seemingly beckons.
If you’re looking for 50 minutes of brilliant, genuine, heartfelt music, you’ll take that advice.
List of What Was Done
Person of Interest
Sketches of You
Nice to Have
Stuck Too Long
Asking for a Friend
Worse Than a Heartache