Hiccups aren’t always pleasant, but if we’re talking about the Brooklyn based band, Hiccup –they’re alright. Hiccup is a half indie, half punk band composed of three musicians –Alex, Hallie, and Piyal. Their first full length album is called Imaginary Enemies. It too is more or less alright –although maybe laden with rookie mistakes.
Somebody help me please because I’m not quite sure what Imaginary Enemies is aiming for. Is it some Go Sailor inspired indie pop? Is it a twee meets pop punk mixture? Is it meant to be original? –because it’s not. Imaginary Enemies is inorganic and stale –with more ‘o’s in its songs than there are in my cheerios.
On some level, I enjoy Hiccup as a band and I really wish I could endorse Imaginary Enemies. An album full of breakup songs and female vocals is an enticing offer. Any passionate twee pop fan could agree with that. Add in a cast of seasoned musicians with diverse tastes and the album really opens up for potential. The album began with an air of optimism –this was going to be another gem to add to the collection –and then all hell broke loose.
Imaginary Enemies begins fast and steady. “Austin” drives forward heavily with percussion and tosses in a quick guitar solo before the quick paced and just under ninety-seconds ditty ends. The lazily sung vocals against excited instrumentals get the memory going and the ears swoon with a Pains of Being Pure at Heart nostalgia. It’s a strong open. “Lady MacBeth & Miss Havisham” follows up with the most convincing first thirty seconds of a song. Hallie Bulleit’s vocals take center stage against distorted guitar chords. She reminisces and longs –she let’s out an echoing ‘woah’ that becomes overcooked but still –excusable early on.
The album progresses and with the next track –Hiccup hits a ball out of the park and frankly off the damn planet. “Dad Jokes” stood out as Imaginary Enemies knight in shining armor –a thematic and listenable song with fantastic execution and more than anything, a sense of credibility. “Dad Jokes” begins with distorted chords, a simple rhythm, and then the vocals flood in with softly sung lines that lightly drift into the ears. Every instrument, guitar, drums, and humans, comes together with chemistry. The half-way point gives Hallie Bulleit another moment to shine and she keeps the song safe while building intensity –a couple of bassy strums and the song lunges forward again.
A few songs pass by, “Whoa Baby,” this time with more appropriate ‘woah’s, “Teasin’” which crosses into some rock territory. Imaginary Enemies didn’t seem terrible at face value, but after a couple of listens, some unfavorable nuances began showing themselves.
Imaginary Enemies doesn’t sound motivated. Rather frequently, songs feel cheaply constructed rather than carefully perfected. Worse off, Imaginary Enemies’ lyrical content feels stifled behind a competing barrage of instruments. What’s more unfortunate is that the execution of the vocals is often flawed if not lackluster. Indie, rock, and pop tropes become Hiccup’s gimmicks and clichés. Notably, there’s a large amount of onomatopoeia and garbage, fluff words.
Perhaps this is popular in some offshoot indie punk scene, but with such simple instrumental lines and the amount of vocals that are held out ‘o’s or ‘woah’s I’d expect Hiccup owes their fans some free poetry –if you care about lyrical content, Imaginary Enemies is an outright scam. While the merits of replicating a teenage heartbreak are a matter of taste, I was moreso concerned with the fact that three, maybe even four songs have an insistent vowel. ‘O’ just won’t go away and once you add in that the song “Yeah” uses the word ‘yeah’ as its chorus, about a third of the album begins to feel a bit cheapened.
And so Imaginary Enemies progresses and the same ruffled-hair indie pop vibe which made Hiccup so lovable in the first place becomes the same basis on which I begin to feel a bit sour about it. You can’t just mimic Rose Melberg and hope it sounds good –it might. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe this is all acceptable and fantastic.
And so, I won’t advocate for Hiccup’s Imaginary Enemies, but I need to be careful here. Hiccup is a band with more potential than they’re using. Having taken the time to listen to each member’s other works –there really might be something here. Unfortunately, Imaginary Enemies just misses the mark. It feels cheap, cookie cutter, music to be sold and really not listened to. And so, I won’t advocate for Hiccup’s Imaginary Enemies, but I’ll advocate for Hiccup. If you’re an indie pop or pop punk fan, you’d best keep your eye on this up and coming band.