Going to Hell
Lande Hekt’s debut record begins with a series of questions. “Is it whiskey? Is it beer?” she asks on the aptly titled “Whiskey” before delving into questions of a more emotionally resonant nature. It’s a restrained song, Hekt’s vocals a measured murmur—tired but not uninspired, determined to ask questions without waiting for an answer. Much of the rest of Going to Hell follows this pattern, weary and searching, but never confident in the existence of easy solutions. In full, it sounds very much like a debut record—not in execution necessarily, but in it’s toe-dipped exploration of themes and sounds previously unexplored by this skilled songwriter.
Of course this isn’t technically a debut, as Hekt has spent years as the songwriting force of Exeter indie rockers Muncie Girls. In that band, Hekt often strikes outward, expelling a controlled vitriol for, among other things, refugee policy and ex-Top Gear host/current misogynist Jeremy Clarkson. That’s not to say she never turned her gaze inward, but Going to Hell finds much more fertile ground in the internal than her previous output. Part of the reason this works is Hekt’s willingness to wear her heart on her sleeve. Songs like the title track and “Stranded in Berlin” are poetic in their own way, but wrapped in flowery, concealing metaphors they are not. The vein is tapped directly here with very little to obscure hard fact. The latter is especially direct, addressing coming out as gay amid such intimidating pillars as God and Catholicism, its simple strumming pattern and unadorned production making it all the more stark.
These are well-formed moments, to be sure, but the record begins to struggle when it relies too heavily on expository songwriting alone without varying things musically. Late-album tracks like “December” and “Impending Doom” are highlights simply for offering a well-needed departure, the latter featuring a bit of noodly math rock which serves as a throat-clearing for one of Hekt’s many soaring choruses.
The more I listen, the more I see this as a transitional record, the one before the one. Which is understandable, as Hekt moves from the more brash leanings of her band to a more nuanced and personal medium. Going to Hell lays ample groundwork for Hekt to build upon, and it wouldn’t be surprising if there are two or three superior albums in her future. This isn’t meant to disparage Going to Hell, which has plenty to like and even some to love, but rather to highlight the potential you can’t help but see bubbling just under the surface.