Hovvdy’s fifth album is a self-titled statement piece. Underlining years of hyper-reflective, deeply-fan-beloved songwriting, the back-and-forth 19-track sequence draws together swirling piano lines and vivid production under the cohesive vision of longtime friends Charlie Martin and Will Taylor. Hovvdy fits with the comfortable confidence of faded blue jeans. Pushing their determined lyricism into more vulnerable scenes, the record boldly broadens the scope of the Texas duo’s songwriting. The collection taps familial bonds, tested relationships, and what Will calls “lifelong imprints,” viewed at hindsight’s distance.
“It’s a full circle, because lots of my songs, in adulthood, deal with looking back and seeing your parents as just individuals struggling through life – and trying to have more empathy or understanding. And now Will is diving in from the opposite side as a new parent, grappling with all that,” says Charlie.
Upon meeting back in 2014, Charlie and Will combined separate songwriting sketches into the same big picture, emerging as a stronghold of the Austin indie scene. Their exploratory catalog has earned status as a quiet favorite of rising stars – seen last year as Zach Bryan expressed admiration for Hovvdy’s album True Love, indie supergroup Boygenius listed it as an inspiration for their record, and beabadoobee named Hovvdy as one of her favorite artists. Hovvdy arrives in a new partnership with Toronto-based outlet Arts & Crafts (Broken Social Scene, Feist).
“On this album, we tried to really step back and look at: How can we convey our songwriting in a new way?” says Will. “It challenged the songs we brought, and it challenged me to be more vulnerable.”
“We’re trying to stretch out and create a tapestry of everything we can do,” says Charlie.
For the expansive double album, the duo went all in with frequent collaborators. The collection centers Hovvdy’s creative maturation in a true co-production between the band, Andrew Sarlo (Bon Iver, Big Thief), and Bennett Littlejohn (bassist, multi-instrumentalist). All four were present for each session in hideaways across the U.S. An unprecedented focus on live takes further peeled the band’s early slowcore layers to show dazzling dynamic range, from the country feel of “Portrait” to the bombastic drums of “Meant.” “We really wanted to encapsulate what it felt like to be in the room when we’re playing,” says Will.
An initial meetup at a log cabin in Black Mountain, North Carolina, revamped Hovvdy’s past lo-fi techniques to playfully catch up with their current craft. Will was surrounded with iPhones and field recorders to capture the southern spin of “Portrait.” Another AirDrop experiment, the vocals of “Angel” find Charlie walking along a babbling creek. A car alarm goes off, just in key, balancing atmospheric clatter and ASMR-level closeness. These intimate moments shift seamlessly into the huge, celebratory statements of character-driven singles like “Jean” and “Forever,” just buzzing in the storytellers’ energy.
Deepening the album’s zoom-in on the years since leaving their home state, further sessions landed at family homes near Dallas. With Will now based in Nashville, and Charlie in St. Louis, Texas remains a meeting point. The felted keys of an upright piano borrowed from Charlie’s mom, a piano teacher herself, anchor throughout. Bennett’s Wurlitzer 200A joins the Auto-Tune and electronic flourishes stamped on past Hovvdy co-productions with Sarlo, including True Love (2021) and billboard for my feelings (2022). Skittering programmed drums keep pace on bright spots like “Bubba” and “Every Exchange,” stringing the album’s hell-bent dash towards deeper interpersonal understanding, a timeless pursuit.
Tempos wander as the duo explores time – earned, lost, and given to others. While the band’s prior LP, True Love, splashed in new marriages and parenthood, the self-titled album looks at long-term ties twisted and strengthened, sometimes amidst grief and addiction. Charlie narrates sibling support in “Bubba,” where a brother promises, “I’ll get a goddamn grip, hold onto it for a while.” The record also recounts a visit to Mississippi, where Charlie stayed with family during the loss of his grandfather. “‘Make Ya Proud,’ I wrote while he was in the hospital, and ‘Song for Pete,’ I wrote that the day he passed,” says Charlie.
A breath, three evenings, or six days’ unemployment – so many spans softly cut the album like pencil marks. Father to a three-year-old, Will holds a special interest in bottling time. He strives to savor moments over the giddy breakbeat of “Every Exchange,” while twangy closer “A Little” measures out regrets over love gone ignored. “That’s what makes being a parent so difficult – it immediately exposes all the things you haven’t dialed in about yourself,” says Will. “Looking at the record, it’s interesting that we both have these unique perspectives on the challenges that come with family.”
Never staying still too long, Hovvdy’s milestone self-titled album easily folds introspection into their big, fearless choruses so cherished by live audiences. Always guided with a gentle hand, the listener lands right there in the room, to witness the spontaneous synchronicity of Charlie and Will’s shared songcraft. Seeing the duo trade off on vocals for the first time since their 2017 debut Taster, single “Bad News” revels in the years of growth. In the Texas-accented thrum, harnessing Hovvdy’s quintessential chug, Will sings: “You know time is all I have to give up.”