Want your socks knocked off? Listen to Halogens EP
The Wall Township-based group Halogens released a self-titled EP on Jan. 9, and it's one of the most exciting local albums to come out this past season. Over the past five years, Halogens has characteristically maintained a heavy dose of pop-punk influence, lightly sprinkled with hints of psychedelic flavors in their writing — a genre Charlie Throckmorton coined as a “groove-punk and a jam band.”
The EP continues this tradition, yet it treads into some new territory with the writing and lyricism, while moving away from the cliche themes of high school and exploring more mature topics. The music simultaneously includes some dabbling of uncommon styles for New Jersey pop-punk.
"Kitchen Sink," the pilot track off of the album, sets a tone of sobriety and exhaustion. It presents a solitary, apologetic guitar playing a riff reminiscent of Modern Baseball or the Menzingers. The full group comes in crescendo, introducing delicate guitar harmonics, a knocking bass drum and a hint of jingle bells. The framework pauses as the lead guitar ignites itself with a crunchy tone, and the piece’s entire attitude translates into something new, more aggressive and ambitious.
One aspect that significantly stands out is the ever-shifting drumming patterns, which keep the song alive and driving. Yet, it constantly demands the listener's ear to pay attention the drumming. Another is the eloquent soundscape with the expansive guitar solos, which prove the group’s ability to tap into emotion through raw musical prowess.
Though, what really makes this album sound like a united piece is the lyrical and vocal work of Zach Henry. The melodies harken to the likings of pop-punk figureheads Real Friends and The Wonder Years. Zach’s depth of word choice creates a more realistic, powerful atmosphere that is more engaging for the late-teens and early-twenties college crowd.
Topics such as shattered relationships, trying to reconnect with siblings, reflections on one’s stance in the family and especially the concept of self-afflicted isolation and solitude come up often in this album. Yet, the album managed to stay fresh in delivery. Henry’s voice fits the role perfectly — raspy and hard-hitting. It works as a complimentary element to the upbeat and colorful backdrop, and the duo becomes inseparable.
The middle track of the album, "Ayudame!" sets a more lively tone from the start. Using the beat and brightly-toned guitars gives the feel of a reminiscent summer afternoon, driving on an open road. Contrarily, the vocals consist of harsh, frustrated shouts and focus on an array of topics — a torturous relationship, boredom, disappointment with a loved one and abrasive comments on existence like, “If this is how Karma works, we’re all dead."
Another noteworthy feature of the EP is the constant speed maintained by the deliberate song order, leading directly into one another with little to no breaks. "Olive Garden, Pt. 2" is the first song of the bunch to slow down the pace. Yet, the intensity of the atmosphere remains. It’s a tough call, but this track is arguably the most interesting instrumentally. The tremolo guitar solo, the constant adaptation of the drums and the dangerously catchy first ten seconds make it unforgettable. Though in the last minute, the song takes a much more straightforward and somber turn as Zach interrogates, “Was I the best big brother that I could’ve been? I gave you everything you needed in the end, and it still became the end.”
Occasionally the album is raw or harsh at points, but it lacks any major flaws. Halogens’ self-titled EP is a rarity to come across in this day and age. The combination of long, winding brushstrokes of guitar and whirls of articulate drumming contrasted with the frayed, yet touching vocals. It comes together to form a beautiful tapestry of anxiety and dissatisfaction in life as a 20 year-old college student.
Grounded in reality, yet morbidly existential and eased by layers of textured composition, Halogens’ EP captures life in a poetic and relatable way. They capture an image that is exclusively their own, and one that others in this day and age can easily enjoy.