“Once I was running to you. But time, time, time has got me running from you.”
So sings The Heavy Guilt front man Erik Canzona in the opening moments of “Run in Circles,” the first track off of the band’s eponymous new album, an eclectic rock mix that blends a lyrical wistfulness with a loose, jangly undercurrent of funk in their third and strongest offering yet. Fading into distortion provided by percussionist Al Howard’s distressed “circuit bent” radios, “Run in Circles” segues into the club-stomping rock number “Summer Came” before settling into the brassy, upbeat “Goin’ Home,” a trifecta of songs that sets the pace for the record.
“Circles” describes the record’s emotional arc, as well. Thematically, The Heavy Guilt is an album about miscommunications, broken connections, and the perhaps futile drive to seek reconciliation with the past. Songs such as “Seattle” or “Call Me” express a desire to seek new opportunities in familiar comforts, while “God Burning Eyes” is a tear-inspiring chronicle of regret over a lost love: “Not an artist but she’s art. Now she’s gone and it’s god damned hard.”
Even in the happier moments there is acknowledgement that such things are transitory, as joy and love cycle back through pain and loss before coming back around again. Even a sense of closure may well prove fleeting and unsatisfactory. The penultimate track “The Last Letter” is a lyric-less soundscape created by Howard’s radios and unique percussion miscellany, leading directly into the ruminative “Thoughts.” The album closes with the lyric “Though I’ll always miss that fleeting instant when I thought that you were mine” sung by Canzona against another of Howard’s echoing, distorted fade-outs.
And yet despite the somber and at times brutally honest nature of the lyrics, this is an album to be rocked out to on the dance floor (or wherever the mood strikes). Neither of The Heavy Guilt’s previous recordings has captured the loose, energetic nature of their memorable live shows quite so well. The guitar work by Canzona and Sean Martin is top-notch, and the toe-tapper of a rhythm laid out by drummer Jenny Merullo, bassist Jason Littlefield, and organist Josh Rice on “Next To Know” could have been lifted out of a 1920s speakeasy; set against Howard’s percussion and the chipper guitar melodies, the song becomes a funky number worth spinning a partner around to.
It’s a difficult thing to balance introspective honesty with upbeat, melodious accompaniment; lean too far one way and you’ve stumbled into the realm of emo shoegaze, lean too far to the other and you come off as tongue-in-cheek novelty. The Heavy Guilt straddles that line perfectly. While this is the work of six musicians at perfect ease with each other, it is Rice who is arguably the album’s star; his lush organ work on is the first thing the listener hears, and it’s his keys that set the mood and keep the band grounded on each of the following tracks. A bevy of guest musicians, including Midnight Pine singer Shelbi Bennett and tenor sax impresario Karl Denson, add to the party feel throughout the album.
The Heavy Guilt will be celebrating the new album with a release party on Saturday, April 6th at IRENIC Church in North Park. They’ll be joined by special guests Trouble the Wind, Dead Feather Moon, Little Hurricane, and The Steelwells, in addition to local artists and record dealers. Tickets are on sale now. With such a strong lineup this is sure to be a good time, and one we highly recommend that you don’t miss.