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high dive records

Album review: Fourth of July - Empty Moon

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
There is no time to breathe. No time to think. No time to even formulate a thought. There is no count in. Nothing. The sad, sorry songs from Fourth of July hit you like a bag of bricks, and now you’re forced to pay attention. Press play on Empty Moon and the baritone voice of singer Brendan Hangauer is the first thing to hit your ears. “Honey / is it hard to make friends / the way your emotions bend / and almost break?”
That first line is a decently accurate depiction of Empty Moon. A tangled, conglomerated mess of emotions; bitter songs with a tinge of hate and remorse fill out the full flavor of Fourth of July.  Subtle hints of longing and love lost finish off the lyrical taste. As stated in the band’s Facebook profile, Fourth of July is “having fun to sad music.” I couldn’t have said it better.
The majority of Empty Moon, as with the band’s previous two efforts, maintain a poppy, indie folk sound. Through Fourth of July On the Plains (2007), Before Our Hearts Explode! (2010), and now Empty Moon, the band has not changed their style. It’s good to know exactly what you are getting into when a band releases new works.
The difference in this album is the sheer rawness of the lyrical content. Previously mentioned is the band’s knack for formulating sad songs. This album takes a much more hateful tone; more of a big middle finger to one’s emotions as opposed to a snarky rude comment featured in the albums before.
Every song on Empty Moon can stand alone and hold its own as a potential single. But there are several songs that really resonate long after the album is done playing. “Drinking Binge” takes on the tale of, well, binge drinking, with arguably the fastest-paced tempo on the album.  “Eskimo Brothers” explores the seemingly shitty life of small-town dating. How a girl goes from guy to guy and eventually you’re just waiting your turn—there’s nothing else to do. Finishing off Empty Moon is perhaps the group’s most heartbreaking song, “Berlin.” The track takes a very angry, bitter tone as Hangauer serenades the memory of a former love.
Accompanying this album, on the High Dive Records Bandcamp page, is the Empty Moon Demos (below). All the same eight tracks dumbed down to strictly Hangauer and his guitar. In this demos album, Hangauer sounds more sorrowful and his voice is raspier. This is a haunting and distraught album that lies in the shadow of the musically-upbeat Empty Moon. These demos almost sound more appropriate than the actual album, having that melancholy ambiance.
This Lawrence band has made us wait for three years for Empty Moon, and it was well worth that wait. Exploding with such force and emotion, Fourth of July’s latest effort is really a great listen when you’re feeling blue.
Empty Moon was released on April 9 on High Dive Records. This Friday, April 26, Fourth of July will be doing an in-store performance at Love Garden Sounds with 1,000,000 Light Years at 7:00 pm. Vocalist Brendan Hangauer will be exhibiting his art there for Final Fridays Lawrence. Facebook event page.

--Steven Ervay 


Steven Ervay is super rad. 

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