Hit The Lights – Invicta – Review

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Of all the pop punk bands in recent memory, there hasn’t been one that acted as the perfect guilty pleasure as much as Hit The Lights did in 2006. The sugar-dosed melodic guitars and dance-inducing tunes of “This Is A Stickup…Don’t Make It A Murder” were an instant classic — even influencing the name of our website. Since then this five-piece from Limo, Ohio have been steadily releasing new EPs and full-lengths with a renewed tenacity, case in point was 2008′s “Skip School Start Fights,” which while exerting a much more poppy sound, still kept the bands punk spirit alive, with catchy riffs and angsty, yet potent, lyrics like “Stay Out“‘s, “Stay out all night, ’Cause rest is for the dead. So we won’t stop, no we won’t stop. Raise your glass high.” Since then, Hit The Lights has not only majorly changed the tone with their latest effort “Invicta,” they have also changed their album art style. A man-o-war in space? Where’s my splattered neon paint and face vectors?

I know you may be wondering why I’m going on about the album cover, but it actually foreshadows the bands musical direction in this new record. Hit The Lights have made vast strides since the release of their last full-length, subtracting the addictive, yet sometimes obnoxious, pop and in its place adding straight effects-driven rock – noticeable clearly in the echoed riffage of “Invincible” and in the keyboard-backed song, “Gravity.” Much like their evolved peers Set Your Goals and Valencia, HTL have retained their melodic fretwork, but their musical progression has pushed them past the need for light hooks and high school lyrical references — making for a touching array of swaying verses and catchy chorus’. It isn’t until we hear the early era-sounding “Earthquake” which acts as a serviceable single for the effort, surviving on a winding series of complex guitars and accompanying anthem shouts.

The next few tracks, “So Guilty” and “Get To You” wouldn’t immediately be recognized as the usual outings from Hit The Lights, as a mixture of gainy guitars, softly sung vocals, and Coldplay-esque altering effects, as well as reverbed basslines and charging riffs respectively stream through your speakers. Not to mention the completely relaxed sparkling guitars, fluttering pianos, and thumbing bass on “Faster Now.” I guess we should expect such things from an album that feature rock all-stars like Ryan Key (Yellowcard), Tim Pagnotta (Sugarcult), and the elusive The Starting Line frontman Kenny Vasoli. All the blathering about “maturing” aside, “Invicta“ paints a much more lush picture than previous efforts that were one dimensional head-bobbing pop punk machines (albeit very likable). Now don’t go thinking Hit The Lights just went and made a pretentious indie record, but the albums pacing, mellow energy, and steady progression has turned the bands strengths (which were bouncy songs about girls) into a more moving experience, void of the placid subject matter on other material.

Hit The Lights has found a palpable formula that combines their love of impressive string work and quasi-experimental rock to round out the rough edges left by their early-era pop punk. Like the direction Set Your Goals took from “Mutiny!” to “This Will Be The Death Of Us,Hit The Lights has left their humble beginnings for music with a little more presence, while only sacrificing a little of what made then so catchy in the first place. [Staff]

Score: 4 (out of 5)

Release Date: January 31st, 2012
Record Label: Razor & Tie Records
Genre: Rock
RIYL: Set Your Goals, Valencia, Fireworks

Track Listing:
1. Invincible
2. Gravity
3. Earthquake
4. So Guilty
5. Get To You
6. Float Through Me
7. Should’ve Known
8. All The Weight
9. Faster Now
10. Take Control
11. Oh My God

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