A couple years back, if you were lucky enough to have Generationals’ “Ten-Twenty-Ten” find its way into your path, you found a lifetime member for your “hangout mix” whose handclaps, up-tempo elasticity and ’60s guitar tones played like a paradigm of likable music. The rest of Actor-Caster dug a similar niche, with lyrics straightforward without seeming mindless, lines like “it won’t get better til you leave me alone” painting a band that’s been through it all before, and, more importantly, heard it all before, too, with influences spanning the breadth of rock and roll.
To call Heza, the third LP from the New Orleans-based duo, more opaque would be an understatement. And, as mysteries usually unravel like a pulled spool of thread, Heza winds tighter with the inquiry of what its title means. What is exactly a Generational even, or first track “Spinoza,” or even last album Actor-Castor? And there are answers to all of these, which are not interesting enough to warrant the search, but the collection follows this same logic, at times too general to hold meaning, at times seeming too specific to discern without a push in the right direction, and most of all so weightless that effort of any sort seems to be directly in contrast to the sleepy-eyed, bed-headed sweatpants morning that the songs seem written for.
This all doesn’t add to Heza being uninviting—it just limits the engagement. “Spinoza” is the closest they meet expectations, an up-tempo romp with a melody of pop-smarts in the vein of Phoenix, with more guitars and less texture than the French group. From there, the album flips on itself, dropping the pace in favor of amplifying the inorganic elements, electronic grains that muddy the bright melodies.
“You Got Me” and “Extra Free Year” push this furthest and find the band almost re-imagining their sound, which should have been the path taken. Instead, by sticking to the middle, the general result is songs that repeatedly sound like Vampire Weekend on a smaller budget. It might be their intuitive hooks or just an unavoidable indoctrination, but the afro-punk/reggae/Paul Simon stir-fry is front and center, creating a comfortable, relaxing, blended-margarita-on-a-sunny-day listen. Timing is Heza’s biggest enemy, with a month to go until Vampire Weekend’s new album, and the end result is greater anticipation for the original model.