Ex Hex = Heart + Joan Jett and The Black Hearts
Good lord, it feels as though it’s been ages since Ex Hex released their debut album, Rips in 2014. It’s safe to say that record was nothing short of a marvel that carved out a niche in the vastness of contemporary music. Not only did Rips blend familiarity with freshness, but it was composed with the nitty and delightfully catchy gritty elements of glam infused rock n’ roll. Listening to it, I could hear an album that almost begged for the nostalgia of Suzi Quatro or Bonnie St. Claire. Now, four years later, Ex Hex deliver something entirely different with It’s Real.
Ex Hex don’t tread along with the tried and tested. Rather, they seem to jump completely on the other side of the rails with this record. It’s Real represents a sort of graceful and cool maturity for their sound. Fans of their previous work will note that this album largely loses the rocking elements that made Rips remarkable. Instead, Ex Hex’s sophomore record boasts a style that mixes lounge-like rock n’ roll with the calm murmur of indie rock. It’s the kind of album that’s good and solid in the background, but not something that would necessarily captivate.
It’s Real is poised and reserved throughout its 10 tracks. While Rips had a rockier, angstier feeling to it, It’s Real leads its listener on a sort of melancholic ride. It’s perfectly plausible to play It’s Real loud while getting lost in the interesting expanse of the vastness of a summer night’s star-filled sky. Mind you, being under the influence of substances (both liquid and smokeable) may make or break such an experience with is record.
Top tracks for this kind of experience are “Another Dimension” and “Tough Enough.” Bother tracks have a kind of persistent groove to get down to. As mentioned before, it’s a calm listen for a relaxed atmosphere. On the other hand, “Diamond Drive” is slightly more upbeat and is truly a tune of few on this record to move to and is borderline reminiscent of Rips. “Cosmic Cave” is another in this vein.
The top track on It’s Real, however, is “Talk to Me.” This beauty captures the same kind of psych sensibilities that complemented Rip’s “Outro.” It perfectly concludes It’s Real by leaving a feeling of contentment—think a mix of psych from The Beatles’ Revolver with the soothing nature of sounds emanating from La Luz.
Overall, Ex Hex have defied limitations of being boxed-in by their previous record and produced another album that almost stands on its own. Folks hearing this record will find sounds totally different from what’s flowing through the airwaves. Although, It’s Real does obscure the certain provocative, rockier elements that made Rips a celebrated record. This album is not following a trend; rather, it shows that Ex Hex is playing by their own rules. It’s Real maintains its own space with tight, cool rock n’ roll made of the bleeding heart of a tender soul. This one is good and well worth your consideration. Go forth and check out Ex Hex—you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you hear. —Nick Kuzmack