by Joel Parmer (@cup_of_joel)
Philadelphia’s Half Thought have sprung into existence, debuting a full length self-titled album right from the get go. The group consists of Travis Arterburn and Tom Anthony, both singing and playing guitar. The duo previously performed in Clique before they suddenly disbanded among a finished but unreleased record. Drummer Michael Walsh and bassist/piano player Tom Fala secure the rhythm section of Half Thought. Together the quartet recorded their debut album with Evan Bernard at Big Mama’s Recording Studio in Philly. Arterburn mixed the S/T and Ryan Schwabe, who has mastered albums for Hop Along, Three Man Cannon, and Dogs on Acid, took care of the final touches.
Half Thought’s sound hovers around the same slowcore inspired sphere as Clique’s two previous releases and former bandmate PJ Carroll’s newer project En Route. Moreover, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the group’s name originated from the similarly titled Bedhead song. While somewhat reminiscent of all of those groups, Half Thought incorporates a wry power-pop driven songwriting style with their own slow burning sensibilities. Lyrically they make you ponder your existence in this baffling world. Sonically they mangle together twinkly guitar build ups with full-boar, drub choruses.
The track “Reality World” opens up a narrative approach for the album. Without wasting any time, they hit the first down beat as a full band while singing: “Fuck it I’m waking up. The sunlights creeping in. Tracing conversations using disappearing ink in the pen.” Through a cunning use of repetition the song advances into an outro bridge section. It dips down and makes use of slightly more lo-fi guitar tones and a dexterous bass line. Surprisingly and tastefully, a final electronic drum beat blends into the mix.
The theme for the first four songs on the record seems to be short, sweet, and directly to the point, with each track fixating at right around two minutes long. This illustrates the fact that Half Thought isn’t afraid to end a song before it becomes overblown.
“Black Bag” immediately emits a more chorusy vibe. With an unfixed and distorted bass line throughout, the song begins to add in backup vocals that nod at Clique’s style of harmonization without ripping it off. Then “Artifacts” chitchats about the melancholy attachment people have to social media with lines like: “Scrolling through the feed again. Pleased aesthetically, I guess” as well as references to the void of: “Repeated post, repeated text.”
The middle point of the album breaks the short song template with “Script Revisited”. Opening up with piano chords and a triplet feel, this track features a quote from the famous show The Sopranos. In the episode from which the quote is extracted, character Christopher Moltisanti and two friends ‘decompress’ in a bong-fueled, cocaine-snorting frenzy just minutes before attending a get together honoring Tony Soprano’s deceased mother. Completely drugged-out, Moltisanti rambles on and on as he attempts a meaningful eulogy. The song sounds a bit cheerier than the rest of the album and ends on the stoney, unfinished resolution to Moltisanti’s quote: “What I’m saying is…”
Perhaps to end the pervious comical gesture, “Everyone Sometimes Leftover” delves into the concept of battling with sobriety. Painting a picture that likely deals with the balancing act of consumption vs. overconsumption, Arterburn and Anthony sing: “Underground at least you’re sober. More than we knew how for sure, even god wants something more” and “Hanging out and hanging over. Don’t know god, don’t know who’s soberer.”
The final song from Half Thought’s debut entitled “Medians” puts humanity on blast. Ending huge, the track culminates everything leading up to it and examines several issues the world gets caught up in, such as being ignorantly wasteful and “burning cash” while pretending to live beyond one’s means. By the end of the closer, layered vocals simultaneously sing and scream: “Not enough, it’s not enough again”.
Half Thought’s album emanates like an existential fire that has burned down into glowing coals. You’ll want to sit around and reflect on the radiating warmth it puts off. All the while it’s impossible to ignore the lyrical depth and constant, relatable subject matter that surfaces on their debut.