When I first listened to 2nd Grade’s latest album I was in a bit of a shock. Songs would end abruptly just in time for me to get caught in its hooks, leaving me wanting for more. I mean, imagine if Star Wars ended just after Princess Leia was rescued, leaving you wondering about Vader and the Death Star? Then it dawned on me after a few more listens. In between the short, sweet and melancholic surf rock and pop hooks, intentionally or not, Hit to Hit reminded me of my childhood memories — riding my bike across the neighborhood and going to a friend’s house to play their Dreamcast. As I swept through all of its 24 tracks that ran for 1-3 minutes, I got a sense that I was flipping through a montage of faded childhood memories. Like the songs in this album, many of them were short and didn’t need much elaborating.
This album swings from fun to sentimental, with a few being both at the same time. Honing in on complex emotions of growing up and looking back. Examples of songs in the fun camp are “Sunkist” and “Sucking the Thumb”. Both of which are 1 minute fuzzy surf choruses that are just begging to have a few verses added into them. “Boys in Heat” is a surf pop song that’s impressive in a way that it compresses the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge structure into one minute.
Songs like “Try to Be on My Side now” are in the opposite camp. It recounts a falling out with a friend when you need them the most. The feeling of isolation is strongly felt with the minimalist guitar and vocals. “Maybe I” follows in the same vein by shedding light on self-doubt and anxiety. “Flavor of the Week” laments the passing of time, and of all the things you used to enjoy as a child but couldn’t anymore as an adult.
Standouts in the album are “My Bike” — a lyrically optimistic song that details the feeling of freedom when roaming around with your favorite transport. Except music tells a different story, drenched in a minor key and plodding in a languid tempo. A dissonance suggests a longing to enjoy that feeling again. “Summer of Your Dreams” is the sweetest moment of the album that captures all its emotions and wraps it in a bow. It captures the childlike anticipation of the upcoming summer and making plans with your friends to make it the best that it could be.
While 2nd Grade skimps on song length, I never had a sense that they were compromising in expressing their sincere emotions. If anything this stylistic choice means that there’s never a dull moment in Hit to Hit. Sometimes the best things in life are short and simple.
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