It is fair to say that Chicago hailing progressive alt-rock outfit Molehill has more than established themselves on the city’s music scene but broader horizons may soon be in their sights if the qualities found within new EP Hearts on Fire is a regular strength to their music. The three track release is a seriously engaging and emotionally provocative offering which catches ears and imagination with ease while suggesting that greater national spotlights and possibly those from further afield could be watching soon.
The band which emerged in 2008, consists of founders Peter Manhart on lead vocals/guitar and bassist/vocalist Trevor Jones who after beginning to work together soon linked up with drummer Devin Staples and subsequently keyboardist/vocalist Greg Van Zuiden. The following years has seen the band play over 300 shows between the Midwest and Eastern United States as well as help found the Chicago Roots Collective, which was a 10-band collective working together to promote the Chicago music scene and their music.
Their latest adventure for fans old and new quickly coaxes ears and thoughts with its presence, Hearts on Fire opening up with its title track. The song is inspired by the “Euromaidan” protests in the Ukraine, the birthplace of vocalist Manhart’s mother, where the common man rose up to fight an oppressive regime. A caress of vocals makes the first draw, bold rhythms and gentle poetic piano adding their touches soon after Manhart’s voice begins sharing the song’s heart. Quickly it finds its infectious stride, pop essences fusing to its catchy electro rock stroll to grab body and spirit. The track’s landscape is an evolving flight though, reflective calms and progressive turns meaning enjoyable unpredictability comes hand in hand with instinctive catchiness.
It is an excellent start resourcefully backed by the similarly infectious Reverie; its sadness tinged air cloaked in melancholy more grateful than morose. The dark throb of the bass epitomises its character, its resonating weight heavy but with a buoyant swing matched by the vocal expression and heart of Manhart. It is a highly charismatic song impossible not to enjoy and get wrapped up in before Old Soldier completes the release with its haunting tale and presence. The story of a proud, religious soldier living out his last days in a nursing home, with the line “And he sits in a dead room, sterilizer and perfume, and the lights are slowly growing dim.” encapsulating the evocative and striking tone of the song, it too absorbs the senses and imagination. A sonic unravelling and seeping discord adds to the charm and haunted elegance of the piano, their contrasts uniting perfectly to wrap rich words and emotions with at times the song finding a presence something akin to Muse.
It is a stirring and striking close to a release which ticks the boxes on every level. Molehill are working towards bigger successes and after Hearts on Fire those exciting horizons might just be coming their way.
The Hearts on Fire EP is available now on Spotify and iTunes.
Pete RingMaster 24/05/2017
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