The music that Lande Hekt started out making with her band Muncie Girls was polemical and uncompromising. Their debut album was filled with songs that took aim at society with a withering glare, espousing radical politics with the fervency of someone who has done their homework. On one of the band’s earliest and most powerful songs, written when Hekt was still a teenager, she laments the lack of education we receive about revolutionary ideas: “All the things you didn’t learn in school and why it feels like no one knows the truth/ The systems we rely on aren’t for you, they’re for the lucky fucking few,” she sings in no uncertain terms.
But as we grow up we realize how much we don’t know and can never know. Muncie Girls’ sophomore album was called Fixed Ideals, but its title was something of a misnomer; Hekt spent the album exploring moral grey areas in relationships and her own mental health. She looked hard at herself and her group of friends and their impact on the world. She started wondering about humanity’s capacity to actually enact change. Going To Hell, Hekt’s debut solo album, continues that examination by focusing on herself.
These are songs about wondering if you’ll ever allow yourself to be happy, and they energetically list off the reasons why you might not be. Many of them are populated by questions that have no answers. Opening track “Whiskey” is made up of nothing but questions, piling up on top of each other to the point of absurdity. Hekt’s voice sounds passive at the beginning, letting these questions hang in the air, but as the song goes on these questions shift in tone. The instruments change, an acoustic guitar builds up into an electric one, and Hekt’s final line (“Is it the feeling of not having to pretend?”) sounds less like a question and more like a wish.
All of these questions make sense within the context of the album because Going To Hell is about indecisiveness, or rather the period between uncertainty and surety. Written as Hekt was in the process of coming out as gay, her lyrics focus on sublimated desire and internalized shame. “80 Days Of Rain” is a chiming track about sexual frustration and wanting to fall in love and have it all: “Is this just another string of bad luck? Is this just another week where we don’t fuck?” she sings — yet more questions. On the album’s title track, she begs her imagined audience to absolve her of guilt: “I live my life for other people/ Not in a good way, in a really shit fucking way/ I’ve always been scared of what people might say/ Can you help me feel another way?”
Going To Hell is a lyric-heavy album. Hekt’s delivery, which retains its mewling Exeter accent, can change on a dime from despondent to empowering. She has experience with how to build an arresting hook out of her wordy songwriting style. As part of Muncie Girls, she had some heavy machinery behind her, bandmates that bolstered her many words with the brow-beating they necessitated. Going To Hell is, comparatively, more subtle and subdued, but there’s still a lot of cool sounds going on here: “December” breaks out into a new wave-adjacent shimmer; “Hannover”‘s stop-start stutter pulls Hekt between her new mode of indie-rock stargazing and her past as a punk barn-burner. But even at its most anthemic, like on the aforementioned “80 Days Of Rain,” Hekt is more interested in interrogating why something happens as opposed to simply saying it happened.
This tendency is exemplified on “Undone,” a song about the rush of excitement on meeting someone new. It opens with a conversation about what Hekt wants out of life that comes up empty: “You said, ‘Do you want this one or that?’ and I said, ‘Maybe neither.'” That sort of exchange characterizes the general mood of Going To Hell. It’s growing-up album written in the throes of the painful act of coming into yourself. But as with her earliest songs, Hekt is unassailable in her determination to figure it all out. Those questions are leading somewhere and, even if Hekt doesn’t have it all mapped out yet, sometimes you can hear it. When these songs really lock into themselves, change does seem possible, and maybe Hekt does have all the answers.
Going To Hell is out 1/22 via Get Better Records.
Other albums of note out this week:
• CARM’s CARM.
• Rhye’s Home.
• John Dwyer, Nick Murray, Brad Caulkins, Tom Dolas, and Greg Coates’ Witch Egg.
• Palberta’s Palberta5000.
• Caroline Shaw’s Narrow Sea.
• Speed Stick’s Volume One
• Bicep’s Isles.
• Still Corners’ The Last Exit.
• Kiwi Jr.’s Cooler Returns.
• Hospital Bracelet’s South Loop Summer.
• James Yorkston And The Second Hand Orchestra’s The Wide, Wide River.
• Tomorrow x Together’s Still Dreaming.
• Camp Trash’s Downtiming EP.
• Widowspeak’s Honeychurch EP.