Review by Dom Vigil
Groovy, gritty and undeniably catchy, The Rubens’ new album Hoops is a breath of fresh air, but with a sense of familiarity that makes you feel at ease. Whether it’s with the first gritty track, “Hallelujah,” or the more groovy, “Hoops,” the album is full of not only hits, but songs with quite a bit of soul and passion behind them.
“Hallelujah” really establishes a solid sound and mood right off the bat - with solid, crisp lead vocals, soulful backing vocals and very full sounding instrumentals, things begin with a bang and don’t let up anytime soon. Not only do the backing vocals on “Hallelujah” really set the mood for the album, but they also provide a great backbone for the song. The opening song is warm and eases you right into the album without any question or hesitation - “Hallelujah” is confident, well written and flows amazingly.
Almost immediately, it becomes apparent that there are multiple sides to The Rubens, too. “The Night Is On My Side,” while similar to “Hallelujah” in some aspects, takes a step away from the opening song and takes you further into the musical journey of the album. With a dark undertone and gritty vocals similar to “Hallelujah,” it is an easy transition, but where this song differs is in its groovy, laid back tone. The title track, “Hoops” follows suit, with a very soulful, moody and emotional sound, very similar to that of Arctic Monkeys. “Hoops” takes a slower and more simplistic route with a strong drumbeat and pretty guitar riffs, the vocal patterns and melodies taking the reins, making it very infectious and easy to listen to. A high point on the track comes toward the end of the track when the lead and backing vocals being singing in rounds, surrounding you with sound. The change of pace on “Hoops” is not only refreshing, but it showcases yet another side to The Rubens.
Following “Hoops” is “Switchblade,” which is much more psychedelic and spacey, especially in the echoey guitars and instrumentals. However, much like the rest of Hoops, there isn’t just one side to “Switchblade,” and the song quickly explodes into a very full sound. The only real downside on this track comes when the full band does come in, as it can tend to feel a little busy and distracting, but that’s a small price to pay for such a huge track. And then, taking yet another step away from the other sounds on Hoops is “Bitter End,” which nearly sounds R&B influenced, especially in the soulful backing and lead vocals. Much like “Hallelujah,” the backing vocals in “Bitter End” provide a strong backbone, proving that every voice and instrument on the album has a role to play.
While The Rubens absolutely shine on their slower, soulful tracks, the middle of the album can tend to get a little sleepy, so the next track, “Cut Me Loose” is a much needed change of pace, picking things right back up again. “Cut Me Loose” definitely still has that same bluesy, soulful feeling, but stands apart because of the strong guitar, keys and solid bass work. Another great change of pace is the aptly titled “Things About To Change,” which feels a lot brighter and more hopeful than much of Hoops. “Things About To Change” feels like a celebration.
Hoops then begins to come to a close, starting with “Battles” and “Hold Me Back,” two darker tracks, carried by moody guitar work. Still keeping listeners interested, though, is “Hold Me Back,” which is carried heavily by keys instead of guitar or bass work. “The Original” then takes things right back to the beginning, with a dark, soulful and very full sound before “The Fool” brings things to and end with some very gritty, dirty guitar work, shaking things up just one last time.
The great thing about Hoops is that it feels familiar and inviting without ever coming off as safe or boring. The sound on Hoops is something that you may feel that you’ve heard before, but then The Rubens’ soul and passion comes forward, and you’re thrown through a loop, taken off guard and left with an incredibly diverse, yet very solid sounding release. Hoops feels huge without trying too hard, emotional and soulful without sounding weak, and fresh while drawing inspiration from many different genres. This release is timeless and fun to listen to.
Listen to "Hoops"
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