It takes some time for musicians to really find their sound. Sometimes it takes five albums, other times it takes a full career. But 2nd Grade, don’t seem to have that problem. Injecting their own version of punk rock with a good measure of Americana, 2nd Grade has created an album, Hit to Hit, that is short and succinct, and really packs a punch. The songs may be short, but the attention they have given each song is not.
When you’re working with short songs, it might seem a little indulgent to spend 20 precious seconds opening a track with a single distorted guitar strum, but 2nd Grade does it anyway. “Baby’s First Word” brings in all the best elements of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. There are no vocals as such, just a few nonsensical noises made with such conviction that you could be forgiven for thinking that they have a baby on the mic.
Humor is one of the cornerstones of 2nd Grade’s music. They have a certain level of childishness in their music despite their measured approach. “Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider”, contrary to its funny title, deals with the inability to let go of childhood and focuses itself on easy lyrics that are easy to sing along to. “Shooting From the Hip” is another earworm and easily one of the best tracks on the album. It has a catchy chorus and ends abruptly with a comical shooting sound that adds just enough whimsy.
Hit to Hit isn’t all about getting the most bang for your buck. 2nd Grade plays with emotions and makes it look easy. Nostalgia hits hard with “Velodrome”. It’s tender and comes with a lot of heart and wouldn’t seem out of place in the indie scene of the early ‘00s. Repeating the same melodies over and over again creates the feeling of going around in a velodrome but instead of making you feel a little bit queasy, this track is settled and measured and wraps you in a fuzzy musical blanket.
2nd Grade slows the album down with “Something I’ll Have to Remember”. Starting with sweet acoustic guitar, and honest and vulnerable vocals are all about slowing down and not running with everyone else. The track is calm enough to let you sit with the track and lean into it on every repeated listen.
Short songs generally give way to flippancy on the listener’s end, but Hit to Hit demands that attention. Every song hits both a musical and emotional mark. For many bands, trying to convey a sound and elicit any type of emotion is difficult to include in a 4-minute-ish long song but 2nd Grade can do it in 2 minutes, getting straight to the point and making you want more.