If there’s one thing that 2021 has taught me, and it’s taught me a lot, it’s that you shouldn’t expect bands you like to deliver the music you expect. And why should they? Not every band can be like the Ramones, delivering pretty much the same album every time whilst somehow keeping it interesting. One band that hasn’t delivered the same thing and kept me on the edge of my seat is Hanya. Over the past few years, they’ve released two flawless EP’s. 2018’s ‘I Used to Love You, Now I Don’t’ and 2020’s ‘Sea Shoes’. These releases were filled with introspective lyrics, shoegaze sensibilities and Riot Grrrrl bite. Since ‘Sea Shoes’ Hanya released singles ‘Texas,’ ‘Monochrome’ and ‘Lydia.’ These indicated that Hanya were slightly changing course, but nothing too dramatic.
Part of this change was that the band had added new members, singer songwriter Heather Sheret and drummer Jack Watkins, while Benjamin Varnes, originally on bass, was now on guitar. Their ranks have swelled again with Jorge Bela Jimenez joining on bass. Now this might not sound like much of a change, but Jimenez’s inclusion seems to have been the key to Sheret’s song writing. The rhythm section is now a force to be reckoned with. Over this, Varnes’ guitar lines have room to shrink and grow, while Sheret’s vocals, which have never sounded better, smoulder all over it like smoke from an ashtray in the beer garden in the summer.
‘100 Metre Spring’ kicks off with ‘Fortunes’. Straight away you realise this isn’t the same band you heard on their last EP. And it’s exciting! The opening is reminiscent of SWV’s certified banger ‘Right Here.’ Which is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, Hanya are a guitar-based band. The shoegaze sensibilities have been replaced with laidback melodies and sun-drenched vibes. As these flow from the speakers, you realise that Hanya are pivoting from their early sound into something more interesting and remarkable. Yes, yes, I know bands changing isn’t anything new and nods to their previous sound are still here, ‘Logan’s Run’ and ‘Texas’ wouldn’t be out of place on the ‘Sea Shoes EP’ or ‘I Used to Love You, Now I Don’t’, but these are interspersed with sun drenched riffs. The standout tracks are ‘Houseplants’ and ‘Logan’s Run.’ They appear to be bridges to their past, ‘Logan’s Run’ with its frenzied guitars, and their future ‘Houseplants,’ with its effortless cool oozing from every pore.
The real power of Hanya’s songs has been Sheret. The things she writes about might be the mundanity of life we all go through, house plants dying for example, but she invokes a feeling of drama and poignancy that is gripping. On top of this she is the owner of one of the most impressive vocals in music at the moment. Sheret may start a song with a dreamy purr, but this can change to a guttural bellow, before dropping it back down moments later. Lyrically she is on point. The two standout lyrics are “At least my dog thinks I’m good. Need it more than I should,” “If there was a hurricane and I died, I went to heaven would you be surprised?” and “I’m kind, I’ve done things wrong, but in 10 years I’ll be long gone”. They are dripping in longing, but they also have the power to make you laugh. And this is what all good music should do – make you think, but also make you happy. Sheret, and Hanya, have been a bright spot on the musical landscape for a number of years. Now it’s getting brighter. So bright it’s hard to ignore.
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