There should be a law, humbly and gently worded, requiring Hinds to release all of their future albums during the summer season in perpetuity. Grant that their latest, The Prettiest Curse, drops this week out of a sober respect for the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a reschedule from its original April 3 date. Also grant that the tone baked into every Hinds record, from 2016’s Leave Me Alone to 2018’s I Don’t Run, pairs perfectly with warm, sunny days spent driving on beachside highways with the windows rolled down, even when they’re singing about loneliness, breakups and the neverending quest for hugs and cuddles.
Hinds’ usual fuzzed-up rock aesthetic bridges the gap between The Prettiest Curse and I Don’t Run nicely. The latter plays strictly in the mode of garage rock. The former reads mostly the same, but occasionally brightened with layers of pop. Effervescence is a key ingredient in all their music, but The Prettiest Curse’s bubbliness is more pronounced, the froth that shapes the band’s rising to the surface in a slightly broader coating. It’s not unusual for musicians to try updating their sound with outside influences and unexpected genres, but too often the experiment falls apart; the unfamiliar elements clang against the details that give the group character, like eating chocolate cake baked with carob.
Not so with The Prettiest Curse. Hinds—Carlotta Cosials, Ana Perrote, Amber Grimbergen, and Ade Martin—have a strong grip on their musical identity, and they’re not keen on a makeover. They started as a duo, expanded into a quartet, started writing songs in their bedrooms and toured around the United States leading into Leave Me Alone’s release, all over the course of half a decade. It’s 2020 now, and if Cosials, Perrote, Grimbergen, and Martin have matured as individuals, they’ve kept their music raw, holding onto the rebellious, carefree (but not without care) spirit that’s fueled them since 2011. Growing older is a drag. You’re better off alternating pining after and cursing at the boys who break their hearts.
In between that, throw up a middle finger for the pigs who tell you you’re only popular because you’re hot. If there’s a unifying theme to Hinds’ discography, it’s “fuck you,” and their best “fuck you” song yet is “Just Like Kids (MIAU),” The Prettiest Curse’s second track. “Can I tell you something about you and your band?” goes the first line of the first verse; women listening can fill in the blanks on their own, because any woman in just about any industry ever has, at one point or another in their careers, been forcibly given unwanted tips from misogynist dumbasses about how, in Hinds’ case, to properly play their instruments, or how not to be Spanish; smeared at the bottom of that sandwich is a repulsive blob of blatant sexism, plus condescending remarks about their work ethic. (“It must be so much fun / to spend daytime in your van.”) A swift kick to the groin would be the most satisfying response to smug ignorance, but Cosials and Perrote shrug it off and go rock for their waiting fans instead. (“Dude, it’s been a pleasant chat / but I’m off to do my job / ‘Cause we have the craziest crowd.”)
The record’s title derives from “Just Like Kids (MIAU)”s chorus, but applies to the many contrasts and contradictions littering the rest of the record’s 10 tracks. Sometimes, those contradictions arise in the same song, like on “Take Me Back,” which begins as a command (“Don’t take me back”), and evolves, verse by verse, into a plea, from “So take me back” to “Please take me back.” Other times, points and their counterpoints arise transitioning from song to song, maybe best exemplified in the way “Boy” clashes with “Waiting For You”: First, it’s a story about falling deep in intoxicated love, the kind that runs through your head all day and night; then it’s a story about that same love polluted by distance, infidelity, and the malaise of excessive proximity. Spend too much time with your crush, you might just get sick of them.
But the ladies of Hinds aren’t anti-romance. They’re just honestly romantic, lovestruck but well aware of the bumps and bruises that come with the territory. The Prettiest Curse shows the band at their expected peppy standard, maintaining the youthful punk-cum-surf-rock vigor they’ve built their name on for damn near 10 years. They’ve grown up, whether they meant to or not, but they haven’t lost their edge. They’ve merely sharpened it with their best work to date.
Bostonian culture journalist Andy Crump covers the movies, beer, music, and being a dad for way too many outlets, perhaps even yours. He has contributed to Paste since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected work at his personal blog. He’s composed of roughly 65% craft beer.