While most musicians channel anger or intense sadness to fuel their breakup songs, most of these relate to everyone else. The stories are about drifting blissfully ignorant until, unexpectedly, the person sleeping next to you isn't the person you thought they were. The net effect is a series that falls somewhere between "whatever" acceptance and shell-shocked helplessness.
The Family Behind The Fourth Of July.
The core of the band consists of three brothers led by songwriter Brendan Hangauer (vocals, guitar) along with Patrick (bass) and Kelly (keys, trumpet, vocals). Joining them are Brian Costello (drums), Brendan Costello (guitar), and Steve Swyers (guitar on album), who has since left for another project. Confused yet? There's more on the swinging door.
Katlyn Conroy accompanies the band on two tracks (one of which I'll call out in a minute). And Adrianne Verhoeven provides vocals on four. She is best known for her keyboards and vocals with The Anniversary before that emo band became increasingly unsettled on a sound and broke up in 2004. Verhoeven has been bouncing back and forth between various projects.
Undoubtedly, Verhoeven met Fourth of July through their shared Lawrence-based label Range Life Records, which is owned by a fourth Hangauer brother, Zach. Reportedly, he is very hands on in the production.
The Songs That Light The Sky.
Not everything found on Before Our Hearts Explode! will explode in your heart or your head. The raw sound, heavily influenced by early Weezer (especially the song Providence) is memorable. But it's the few gems on the front and back that make for keepers.
Bad Dreams (Are Only Dreams) is the best of the bunch, with Brendan Hangauer aimlessly recanting unarticulated dreams of love. His version of their arrangement is sadly offset by Conroy who is dreaming of something else. Two lines alone will slap your face.
And in my dreams, I dream of you.
And what you will do, when I leave.
Another standout is Tan Lines, which calls out how the imagination of the smallest affair can be more wrenching than whatever happened. Range Life Records put up a rough cut of the song from a live show in Lawrence. The video cut makes for a fine introduction, but the produced version better represents what to expect.
Other tracks worth consideration include L Train (free download, courtesy of Range Life Records), Crying Shame, and Come Home. As mentioned, the album is packaged to tell a total story, but the middle plays weaker than the front and back. Start at either end.
Before Our Hearts Explode! By Fourth Of July Lights Up With 3.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Before Our Hearts Explode! is a noteworthy progression for a band that prefers to be the bigger fish in the smaller pond of Lawrence. Their aversion to road tours doesn't help them send shock waves. Yet, half the tracks are timeless with a tune twice removed from expected. That's why we like them.
Before Our Heart Explode! is available on iTunes. Before Our Hearts Explode! [Explicit] is also on Amazon. The best place to keep up with the band is on their label page and on Twitter.