Hot Flash Heat Wave are back with their third full album, “Sportswear,” closing the five-year gap since their last full album in 2017.
Hot Flash Heat Wave first entered the independent music scene in 2015 with their debut album “Napolitain”. The single “Gutter Girl” from their debut album still ranks as their most-streamed song on Spotify with over 24 million streams.
With the release of “Sportswear” on March 11, the indie trio from San Francisco moved from their original garage rock roots to a more new-wave sound full of catchy synths that taps into a more laid-back vibe.
The track, “Yesterday”, begins with dark melodic sounds that put you in a subtle trance. The beat transitions smoothly and steadily into a more upbeat sound when member Ted Davis’ vocals kick in. The lyrics and happy nature of the music do a great job of capturing a moment of nostalgia and reminiscence.
The sweet sounds carry over into the second track “2 Birds,” where we hear member Adam Abildgaard’s smooth, rich vocals. On first listen, this song’s intro sounds like the opening of “Lost” by Frank Ocean. However, it’s quickly reversed with a melodious riff emerging from the electric guitar.
“Bay Boys” is meant to be an ode to the trio’s hometown of Davis, California, with lyrics like “cruisin’ with the bay boys, riding to the edge of the earth” and “no ones gonna stop the bay boys , ride or die till the end.The song creates a more gothic-rock sound with its low, dark voice, reminiscent of 1970s goth bands like The Cure and Joy Division.
Songs like “Where I’m @”, “Vampires” and “Grudge” are based on the psych-pop melody steeped in the band’s indie roots. The feel-good songs are all catchy in melody and lyrics.
“Motions” explores the band’s new wave sound which captures a dreamlike harmony through the use of lully synths. Aside from its obvious title and lyricism, the song perfectly captures the feeling of drifting into a wave of ecstasy and pure bliss.
“Spin” is more of a cute song on the album that seemingly references an on-and-off relationship with the lyrics, “like a spinning carousel, we’re on a ride that never ends.” Higher pitched synth and shimmering electric guitar tones drive the song’s pop sound.
As the recording progresses, songs like “The Void” experiment with sounds inspired by 80s electro house. laser. It pumps out an energetic tone as the booming synth and percussion carry on throughout the song.
“Like Nothing Else” begins to wrap up the album with hazy distortion that erupts into an ethereal melody created by Davis’ muffled but anguished vocals. As the shimmering effects of the song come to an end, there is a brief pause that continues over a soft piano instrument.
Finally, “Bridge to Nowhere” is unlike any of the other tracks on the album. The band throws all their electronic ambient beats on this last track, creating a flawless lo-fi banger that concludes the album.
The band crafted an album unlike anything they’ve done in the past. Through experimentation with new techniques, “Sportswear” is immersive and captivating as the group tries to balance mental health and existential obstacles amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It speaks beyond the music and creates an introspection into our personal lives through narrative lyricism.