(photo: Mitchell Wojcik)

October 14, 2014
by Paul Blest

A pretty common gripe about music journalists is that they try to attach comparisons to every single new band that they come across, trying to find meaning in every hidden line to make a band that formed in 2012 sound like a bunch of herbs who huddled around a Replacements/Mineral/Unbroken/Youth of Today/[insert your favorite movement of punk’s cornerstone act] record and started a band for the sole purpose of rewriting their favorite record. But look at the other side of things: what “emo” bands have sold out shows at mid-sized to large venues in the past couple of years?
American Football. Mineral. Texas Is The Reason. Cap’n Jazz.

These bands should, and do to a certain extent, get the credit they deserve for making music that’s still relevant today. But the fact is that the bands that are pushing this movement forward today, who are still currently recording, touring, and playing the full-time band role, are too often under-appreciated for what they’re bringing to the table. And I sincerely hope that Kittyhawk’s incredible new record, Hello, Again (out today via Count Your Lucky Stars), doesn’t fall into that trap.

When the band premiered “Welcome Home” a few weeks ago, I just kept pressing play over and over again. From the first couple of seconds, where that layered guitar line is thrown over the drums like a blanket, I broke into a huge dumb smile, and when the vocals kicked in, I was absolutely floored.

From start to finish, Hello, Again is one huge ebb and flow, beginning with introduction “Contact” kicking into “The Petravicz Estate,” a jangly punk song with a banjo underneath that comes to the forefront during the outro before the band kicks into the cheekily keyboard-driven “Sunny Day Renter’s Insurance,” and so on and so forth, and the record never stops moving forward until the closing track, “Tourisme,” abruptly ends.

From “Welcome Home,” which combines the layered guitar work of Erik Czaja (Dowsing, Pet Symmetry) and Mark Jaeschke (Joie de Vivre) with vocalist/keyboardist Kate Grube’s rangey, melodic vocals, to “Seasonal Abjective Disorder,” a scratchy, fast-moving punk song that brings to mind Hard Girls as much as it does any emo band, followed up by “Better Homes,” a quiet, acoustic-driven song that brings to mind indie acts like The American Analog Set, Hello, Again is a snapshot of the diverse creative interests and musical tastes of the people involved in this community right now.

Since Stereogum premiered Hello, Again last week, I’ve been replaying it over and over again. It’s one of the best emo records I’ve ever heard, no doubt informed by bands from an earlier time, but (and maybe this is the snot-picking millennial in me) at the same time something completely different. It’s a gentle sonic reminder that while you’re scrambling to find tickets to another reunion show, there are bands like Kittyhawk playing shows to 30 or 40 people and putting out contemporary classics in their own right. Remember that when you’re scrambling to find tickets to their 10th anniversary album show in 2024.

You can stream Hello, Again via Stereogum or Bandcamp