Hartfield: True Color, True Lie (Clairecords, 2004)

by Brent

Hartfield True Color, True LieSome time ago, an incredible compilation came out of Japan (featuring a number of Japanese, American, and other international shoegaze bands) that floored the listening community. The sounds that burst from  Seven Winters filled our ears with incredible shoegaze sounds that expanded the term “shoegaze” and what the term even meant. Seven Winters featured amazing songs from bands like the furious Ca-P (one of my faves), Airiel, Astrobrite, and a whole host of Japanese acts that amazed listeners with their music. Now, several years after the release of that mind-boggling collection of songs, one of the previously unknown bands featured on Seven Winters has released a full-length CD of their own unique take on the shoegaze sound. Hartfield is that band.

Hailing from Japan, Hartfield play a very pleasant-sounding, melodic style of shoegaze rock that soothes the listener. Not unlike The Lassie Foundation‘s Pacifico, Hartfield‘s full-length debut, True Color, True Lie features sighing male and female vocals, soaring pop melodies, all delivered with a healthy dose of syrupy guitars. A good example of this sound is the scarily titled “She Bangs” (am I the only whose mind conjures up frightening images of a Ricky Martin-William Hung hybrid?). Thankfully, Hartfield delivers an original song, full of exquisite harmonied-duet vocals, jangly guitars mixed with more fuzzy sounding guitars, and a quick tempo. The melody of this song is catchy enough to be on Top 40 radio, but the band adds just enough dissonance in the music to add depth to the song while ensuring its lack of radio play. Another gorgeous song, “Blow Away”, takes a slower, more deliberate approach. Featuring buried male Japanese vocals, thick layers of guitar, and an achingly beautiful melody, “Blow Away” moves the listener.

While much of Hartfield‘s trademark sound of sunny melodies enveloped in shoegaze bliss can be attributed to the band’s musical skill, their sound on True Color, True Lie no doubt benefitted greatly from the mix of Scott Cortez, the visionary American behind Astrobrite, Lovesliescrushing, and a host of other amazing shoegaze and dreampop projects. Cortez’s influence is perhaps best noted in the fluid “Girl Like You”, which is a rerecorded version of Hartfield‘s Seven Winters offering. This new version, complete with back-tracking guitar lines, dense yet light walls of guitars, and flowing female vocals, sounds even crisper and more poised than the Seven Winters version. “Stand by Me” also benefits greatly from the Cortez mix, as Hartfield slowly builds their song layer by precious layer to an epic sounding climax. At the end of the 7 1/2 minute song, the listener is treated to an explosion of glorious sound. It’s safe to assume that Hartfield is more of a pop-oriented shoegaze band, but with songs like “Stand by Me” present on True Color, True Lie, the band showcases their ability to patiently create blissful songs.

Ultimately, True Color, True Lie is a very, very pleasant listen for fans of shoegaze music. By combining accessible melody with the sonics that have always been associated with shoegaze, Hartfield has also created a CD that is an excellent reference point for any newcomer to the shoegaze ideal. With style and substance, Hartfield lives up to the Seven Winters hype.

(True Color, True Lie is released simultaneously in the USA by shoegaze super-label Clairecords, and in Japan by Vinyl Junkie Recordings. The US version of True Color, True Lie contains 13 tracks for just over 1 hour of music, and contains two exclusive tracks.)

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