Troubled Hubble – Penturbia

Troubled Hubble

After getting used to heavy-handed rock – from politically minded hardcore to emotionally gut-wrenching emo – sometimes you just want good, light-hearted rock. That’s not to say this is overly silly, playful, or insincere. Rather, Troubled Hubble play with a lot of sincerity, it’s just that their songs aren’t heavy-handed, and they don’t pummel the listener with too much outright emotion and overwrought lyrics.
Still, that makes them sound like any of a million young bands until you realize how talented these four young guys. There’s immaculate guitar work on this release, just the right amount of strings and keyboards, impeccable drumming, and very unique and excellent vocals. The band has a penchant for layering their guitars without creating a textured mess, creating a sound much bigger than you’d expect, at times almost reaching anthemic proportions. It’s not really straight-forward rock, as they change tempos often and make use of some quirky time changes, evoking images more of Built to Spill and Modest Mouse than the Stones and Beatles. They’re just as capable of rocking out as drifting into a delightful little moody breakdown or some quieter ballads, and I’ve heard few bands pull it off as well.
From the opening up-tempo rock of “Understanding Traffic,” with its middle chorus of “dah-dah-la-la-la-la” and “I’m light and I’m heavy, I’m here when you’re ready,” the band starts strong. The intricate rhythms on “Migraine” are almost boggling, and there’s even hints of a funk guitar behind this up-tempo rock track. There’s hints of the kind of interesting flow and rhythm that made They Might Be Giants so unique on songs like “You Stay Here I’ll Go Get Help.” The soft “Paper/Stone” and “Work” do feel more honest, more emotional, as the vocals have a kind of melancholy, echoed feel and the lyrics take a more introspective approach.
The band has this ability to layer on guitars and keys and fantastic drumming and create these moments of tumultuous beauty, where their songs build to something almost anthemic. The ending of “What We Do” is a prime example, building to this pinnacle, as is the stellar “Secret.” They’re also capable of going for a more bouncy, playful approach as evidenced on “Nancy,” which will have you singing along at times. And the almost slyly silly “I Love My Canoe” is just a downright guilty pleasure.
This is Troubled Hubble’s fourth album, and it’s obvious that you’re dealing with a batch of veterans here. The music is extremely tight but still possessing an indie-rock edge. This album made me realize how little true rock I’ve heard lately in indie-rock. Everything seems to have a -core at the end of it, as if no one is willing to play the style of rock that made Built to Spill and Modest Mouse so famous. It’s nice to hear a band doing it this well again.