It’s funny to think we’re far enough out from the late ‘00s to have hazy memories of chillwave, a genre meant to evoke hazy memories. Hoops seem to have a pretty clear recollection, though. On its full-length debut, Routines, the Indiana foursome goes 2010 in a big way. It’s an album of floaty melodies, hypnotic grooves and melty, warbling guitar sounds. Back in the day, whether dubbed chillwave or the more dignified “dream-pop,” Hoops would’ve fit nicely into the “beach band” pack that included Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing, Holiday Shores and Real Estate. Now, Hoops are a pleasant break from the norm, indie easy-listening, escapism when it’s arguably needed most.
As with many of the bands they take after, Hoops don’t offer a ton of variation from track to track. It’s the subtle shifts that keep Routines interesting. The guitars go all Tears for Fears on the taut, speedy “Rules,” then Smiths-like on the affirmational chimer “On Top.” The hi-hats and snare-rim hits that begin the instrumental “Benjals” suggest drummer James Harris has been sneaking listens to Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.” “On Letting Go” has the dreaminess of Dream Academy’s “Life In a Northern Town.” The brittle guitar snap “All My Life” recalls Dirty Mind-era Prince, minus the funk. With its breathy vocals and seductive guitar line—plus more of those echoey hi-hats—“Underwater Theme” could be Chris “Lady In Red” Deburgh having a go at The Cure’s Disintegration.
Originally a solo ambient project for Auscherman, Hoops evolved in such a way that two of his bandmates, bassist Kevin Krauter and keyboardist/guitarist Keagan Beresford, also write songs and sing. None of their voices are distinctive enough to really grab the spotlight, however, and the lyrics—about being in love, wasting your life, all that good stuff—are cohesive enough to give the impression there’s one guy at the helm. That’s great for the steadiness of this LP, but it’s another reason none of the songs really stand out. The only one that breaks from the formula is closer “Worry,” a yacht rock ballad with cheeseball sax to ease the mind. If the tune doesn’t quite stick in the head, the fuzzy feeling of familiarity does. And that’s more than enough.