Hodera – ‘United By Birdcalls’ Review

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

New Jersey has always birthed interesting and refreshing rock groups. From The Gaslight Anthem to The Front Bottoms to the idol of rock himself Bruce Springsteen, it is no doubt something is in the air that channels such great musical acts. Enter Hodera, a musical project led by Matthew Smith who exhibits the same visionary appeal of the ones before him. His debut album, United By Birdcalls, leads listeners into explosive rock tunes that never fall short of having a wow factor in them. 

‘Breathe Easy’ opens the door to this record with Smith’s strong vocals taking the spotlight early on. The song is a perfect way to kick off this album. Lead single ‘Feel Better’ is a journalistic vision modeled for a calm conversation about trying to let go of the past. The chorus is a troubling breath of air expelled in a panic that sets up the rest of the therapeutic value of this album. As the climax of the song fades we are left with a reflective Smith figuring that talking about what haunts him will help him finally feel better, and that is what the rest of this album reflects.

‘The Outside’ uses a simple rhyme scheme and daunting dark chords to infectiously call for the listener to hum/sing/belt along. The lyrically examination of the person outside Smith’s window being a darker version of himself is something many people can relate with, showcasing fear at what it is we don’t want to be. Immediately after, ‘You’ll Get Through This’ picks back up the pace and offers solace to the dark track before this. ‘Three Years’ is a tear jerking acoustic ballad serving as the center piece of United By Birdcalls.  Smith’s voice reaches his breaking point at the end, offering a view at a very vulnerable songwriter trying to exercise his demons through music.

The first half of this album is fantastic. Each offers it’s own unique style and premise to the bigger picture of the record. The back half, if anything, expands on Smith’s ability to create eccentric dynamics with his ability as a musician.  ‘Dear Forefathers’ and ‘No I’m Not’ trudge along at a near identical pace with the same amount of beautiful melancholy in Smith’s voice, exponentially peaking during the end of the latter song. ‘Let It Out’ is sandwiched between slower pace tracks, making the upbeat pace even more memorable amidst the rest of the record. ‘First Ones At The Party’ aside from it’s lyrical poignancy is very much like the other songs littering the last five tracks. 

It is the closing behemoth ‘I Remember Everything’ that graciously swoops in and picks the final tracks back up. The first two minutes are a pure rock song expelling the last moments of the therapy Smith has been searching for, thanks to the Key of G. United By Birdcalls is a record laced with vivacious melodies amidst a singer’s longing to expel his emotions. Hodera‘s debut album is nothing short of a solid release. Pick the album up through bandcamp. Congratulations to All Sounds Records for a outstanding first release.