Review­: Needtobreathe – 'Hard Love'

How do you follow up a blockbuster of an album? An album that topped both Billboard’s Top Rock Album chart as well as their Top Alternative Album chart. An album that featured the band’s highest ever charting single, along with earning them their first ever Grammy nomination. How do you follow that up? South Carolina band Needtobreathe had that daunting task when they got back in the studio to record a follow up to 2014’s ‘Rivers In The Wasteland’, so rather than simply copy previous albums, they experimented with some synths and electronic effects, and mixed these in with their joyous, soulful brand of rock. ‘Hard Love’ is the end result.

The new approach is best exemplified on opening track ‘Mountain Pt.1’, which is a short synth-laden intro to the album’s title track. Vocalist, Bear Rinehart has a natural, unforced voice, which in places recalls Caleb Followill (Kings Of Leon), that same powerful voice that can’t be schooled. You’re either born with it, or your not. The track is an uplifting tale of perseverance, and the other member of the Rinehart clan, guitarist Bo Rinehart, best sums it up by saying… “If there’s a greater good that you want to be a part of, you’re gonna have to suffer some punches in order to get there, and the song ‘Hard Love’ is partly about recognizing that,” ’Money & Fame’ finds the band warning about the pitfalls that success can bring, and the Stax style horns in the background give the track a cracking vibe. ’No Excuses’ is an early contender for my favourite track on the album. A luscious, stripped back few minutes of blissful chill, that actually had me clicking my fingers in time to the incredible vocals from Rinehart. There is a real swing to the album, and ‘When I Sing’ epitomises this, with a gospel-like mid section, where the vocal harmonies soar.

‘Happiness’ is the lead single, and it continues with the gospel-tinged sound. The choir-like chorus is incredible, and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Nothing fancy, just a joyful sound. Fellow natives of South Carolina, Shovels and Rope lend a hand on ‘Great Night’. The duo help deliver an unashamedly upbeat anthem with a great guitar sound from the other Rinehart. Grinches need not apply, as this is the sound of musicians having fun. ’Be Here Long’ is perfect rom-­com soundtrack material. Perfect for that scene where the main character realises how much of a schmuck they’ve been, and the person that they’ve been waiting on all their life has been under their nose all the while, usually just before something dramatic happens, and it’s too late…”We don’t get to be here long…”, Hollywood awaits. ’Don’t Bring That Trouble’ has a toe-tapping intro, similar to ‘Vintage Trouble’, and proves that everyone has a little rhythm and blues in them.

‘Let’s Stay Home Tonight’ is the big ballad on the album. Tender, without being schmaltzy, this has the makings of a massive hit single, as the US version of staying in with a take-away and watching ‘Take Me Out’ unfolds. It sounds better the way Bear says it though. ‘Testify’ is an emotional tale of having your faith restored. Faith in what is for you to decide, but if ever there was a time for some hope and faith then it surely is present day. The seven minute epic ‘Clear’ rounds off the album with a shimmering guitar sound that helps create a mystical quality to the song. Needtobreathe resist the urge to fade out mid song before coming back in full throttle, instead choosing to continue with a softer sound, which gives the track an edge over generic sounding soft­hard­back to soft epics.

‘Hard Love’ is the sound of a band refusing to rest on their laurels by rehashing previous albums, and Needtobreathe should be applauded for this. This has all the potential to be a massive Summer smash. The songs are there ready and waiting for mainstream radio to pick them up, as there are easily three or four smash hit singles on the album. The album is released July 15th through Atlantic Records.

Review: Dave Stott


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NEEDTOBREATHE unveil video for new single 'HAPPINESS'

NEEDTOBREATHE announce new song 'No Excuses'

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