Something has happened to Hater in the three-and-a-half years since the lighthearted indie-pop of their last LP, Siesta (with singer Caroline Landahl sitting happily on horseback on the album cover). On new album Sincere, they sound rawer and hungrier as they tear through previous ideas of who they were, ripping them up like photographs of an ex-lover.
With a line-up change that imports the drummer and bassist from fellow Malmö post-punk outfit Fews, Hater inject a dark energy into their songwriting. Right from the gritty opener ‘Something’, with its crunchy bass and guitar hook, Hater start to sound more like their name. And that’s even before Landahl’s cracked vocal sweeps in, somehow more bruised and bitter than we’ve heard her before. Listening through the album, the arc of the record reveals themes of damaged relationships, resilience and survival and there’s an authenticity to it all that makes them more compelling than they’ve ever been, perhaps since their first album, You Tried (2017).
Sincere will probably appeal most to fans of dreampop, shoegaze and Scandi-indie, with its careful blend of earnest melodies and dynamic, distorted shifts. Interestingly, guitarist Måns Leonartsson seems more noticeable in Hater’s new configuration. The best tracks swell and ebb, like a slow dance between the twilight of Landahl’s voice and his heavy layers of grimy guitar. ‘Brave Blood’ with its brightly hanging chord changes could be Pale Saints but with Nina Persson not Merial Barham at the helm. Elsewhere, the balance is tipped slightly in favour of Hater’s poppier side. ‘I’m Yours Baby’ and ‘Summer Turns To Heartburn’ lead with a catchy, bittersweet chorus, but Leonartsson is waiting in the shadows, pulling each track into oblivion with a tortured, chaotic guitar solo. When the drums and bass call the shots, as on ‘Far From A Mind’, there’s a more urgent, no-nonsense post-punk flavour that really works set against the melodic chorus breaks, something Sincere could perhaps do with a bit more of.
Lyrically, true to genre, everything is fairly abstract and tantalisingly hard to follow. But there’s also a frankness that occasionally gives us glimpses into its inner workings: “I wish we’d never met” (‘Renew/Reject’), “I know too much/Shit I know enough” (‘Bad Luck’), and “Hopes high/You set yours/I set mine too” (‘Hopes High’). These cracks of light in the otherwise nonchalant, guarded choice of words are essential connecting points holding it together. That closing track, ‘Hopes High’ is a steady, psych-influenced head-nodder that builds nicely around a central riff as Landahl sounds resolute and without regret. It’s a fitting ending that feels like an unburdening, or an emotional döstädning.
Change, heartbreak and endings are inevitable. And in dealing with these, its seems Hater are done with being charming and vulnerable.
‘Sincere’ is out now on Fire Records.