Album Review: Hinds – The Prettiest Curse

[Mom + Pop; 2020]

Abandoning the lo-fi aesthetic is usually a turning point for a band. This sudden adjustment is methodical and often results in a loss or gain of fandom and critical favoritism. In the case of Hinds, the Spanish indie rock band, dropping the fuzz has meant abandoning a modest amount of charm on their third album The Prettiest Curse.

Over the course of the 2010s, the quartet navigated successfully through band name changes, legal action, and produced two garage-pop albums. 2016’s debut Leave Me Alone has been their best, and came at a time when the genre was lacking straightforward rockers. This flow was disrupted slightly on 2018’s forgettable I Don’t Run, which veered more towards the ear-pleasing melodies akin to Best Coast. It’s standard trajectory for lo-fi bands of this caliber. Whereas others like Woods, No Age, or even Car Seat Headrest took the lo-fi approach to greater heights and used it to expand their palette, Hinds didn’t find much use for it over time.

So it’s obvious why they’ve abandoned it for The Prettiest Curse, but the core likability of Hinds is now vanished; in its place we have a more rinse-cycled garage rock band that has more in common with Charli XCX than The White Stripes. Right from the get-go with album opener “Good Bad Times”, the honey-dripping banger that kicks things off positively, we get a sense of the direction Hinds is wanting to go now. “Just Like Kids (Miau)” keeps things rocking, but feels derivative thanks to a recycled hook from 2009.  

These two songs are fairly deceptive in their representation of the album, as for the remainder Hinds largely replace the rawness from Leave Me Alone with plucky synth-pop, which doesn’t service them very well. It’s a back-and-forth struggle between actually jumping into the deep end and just dipping your toe in. The fun rockers from 2016 are still present, but they’re mostly hidden.  

The attempt to distance themselves from lo-fi isn’t as complete as they hoped, as they still inject glimmers of fuzzy production when there’s not much else to do. This is most evident with a cut like “Boy”, which isn’t terrible, but could have stood on its own without the noisy layer.

Lyrically, The Prettiest Curse is devoid of anything deep, keeping things surface-level and focusing on what matters most – “I’m juggling tequila shots, sadness, and reggaeton nights.” So, pretty much what Hinds have always focused on.

At the very minimum The Prettiest Curse is a basic power-pop album – one that gets more and more characterless as it progresses. By the time it reaches album closer “This Moment Forever”, Hinds have run the gamut on relationship goals. For some this might speak to the insecurities we feel when in a toxic relationship, and Hinds have done well at making the topic digestible, but The Prettiest Curse fails to connect in a multitude of other ways. After three albums about the same thing, Hinds haven’t shown any real progression by shedding their lo-fi trappings; instead they’ve just unearthed their shortcomings.