Boy Harsher - Careful

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Minimalist darkwave has seen a growing popularity in clubs over the past decade. Artists like Essaie Pas and Xeno & Oaklander stir dance floors not by overstimulation, but instead with a stark and icy appeal. The coming up of Massachusetts based duo Boy Harsher, however, has been particularly instrumental to the scenes rapidly growing visibility.

 Careful, their second studio album, continues their distinctive blend of gothic coldwave, synthpop and Robert Hood-esque techno. Boy Harsher’s success come from a unique ability to appeal to both fans of underground electronic music as well as those who hold a deep admiration to the 80s’ synth legends such as New Order, Depeche Mode and Eurythmics.

Vocalist Jae Matthews and instrumentalist August Miller began their partnership romantically as well as musically. That relationship eventually broke off, almost leading to the band’s dissolution. Both members also reflect upon familial and personal losses that inspire this record thematically.

On the standout single “LA”, Matthews, with her detached vocals, tells a lover “you will hurt me either way. It’s a matter of time.” An oscillating synth and an insistent kick drum backs this unsettling statement of nihilism. As gloomy as it is, it is a sure fire dance floor banger.

But the intense bleakness of “LA” is juxtaposed by an unexpected moment of hopefullness on “Lost,” another highlight sitting later on in the tracklist. “Could you love me, the way I love you?” asks Matthews. It’s a stirring piece of synthpop that features a few major key motifs, recalling the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark or Yellow Magic Orchestra.

Careful is bookended by “Keep Driving” and the title track “Careful,” two pieces of droning dark ambient that both tease the moody tone of the record in the beginning, as well as allowing the listener to gradually break off of it at conclusion. It iss a solid way of developing the album’s narrative, rounding out the album’s start to finish cohesiveness.

At times, Careful can come off as a bit one note, but Boy Harsher finds a way to keep the record from ever feeling stale or redundant. I first heard Boy Harsher when a DJ dropped them during a set at Minneapolis’ Kitty Cat Klub. The crushing nature of the music commanded the dance floor, perhaps speaking to our need for escapism through every point of emotional upheaval or life circumstances.

Grade: B+

Matt Marciniec