Half Hearted Hero – ‘Isn’t Real’ Review

Posted: by Colin

In professional sports, coaches are often hesitant to compare promising young talent to the heroic and legendary players that have preceded them, even if all signs point to these rookies having exceptional careers. Now Half Hearted Hero is no rookie, they’ve been around for over a half-decade now. However, a maturation process naturally bound to occur, jolted by a slight stylistic shift has left the band pulling influences from alternative flag bearers Bayside, Saves The Day, and Taking Back Sunday. The payoff is in the form of the Isn’t Real, the band’s third full-length release, which could catapult the group towards immediate success no different than what The Hotelier experienced in 2014.   

What could warrant such a bold statement? Well, Isn’t Real is a genre spanning record that covers a multitude of sonic territories, partially due to its excellent production, which gives life to Half Hearted Hero’s emotional output. An example of the album’s rich sound is in the prevalent yet nifty bass lines holding each song together like a thick paste, until they are ready to erupt. When the songs do hit their peaks, whether it features a single climatic burst or a catchy chorus that repeats itself, these resolute moments are definitively branded by lead singer Anthony Savino, whose dynamic range results in one of the more impressive vocal performances the scene has recently offered. 

Most meaningfully, Isn’t Real’s replay value is born out of its over arching themes, which are best summarized in the release’s two singles, ‘All of Me’ and ‘Same Old Same’, which illustrate the band’s rebirth from abrasive pop-punk to a thought-provoking, calculated and cohesive force. The salient theme across the album is the monotony of everyday life, where a daily routine becomes unhealthy because of its predictability. How does one become motivated to escape such a cycle to go on and do something meaningful without abandoning some of the routines, people, and places that helped shaped whom they are? Both tracks utilize their titles within the opening lines of each chorus to access this narrative, “One day you’re fearing the oncoming change, next day you’re pummeled by the same old same.” / “You are an echo, I sound the same. We’re always changing, all of me – all of me, is waiting for an answer, waiting for an answer.”  

Other songs like the infectious and riff heavy opener “Throw It Away” and the spacious “Drive” and mechanical “Sleepwalking” – which are towards the back end of Isn’t Real, take on the fears and anxieties of recognizing that change is imminent. Ultimately, the album jumps back and forth between understanding that change is needed, but being hesitant to take action. Not an uncommon topic addressed in music, what makes Half Hearted Hero’s take on it worthwhile is that they are blunt, but the record is not saturated in overdramatic lyrics or caked in theatrical musical nuisances. 

It’s easy to say a band will experience an exponential rise because of one perfect record. Unfortunately it doesn’t always happen, which is why comparing bands to their peers and predecessors is risky business. What I do know, is that Isn’t Real struck me in similar fashion to other albums that have been very well received by our music community. What enables such profound lyricism and music – is it aging, experiences, or education? Do these factors stand-alone or are they inseparable from one another?  Regardless of Half Hearted Hero’s inspiration for Isn’t Real, the group has taken an enormous leap in their progression. They’ve discovered their own niche residing between alternative, pop punk, and emo, and the end result is an album that should gain significant recognition. 


Isn’t Real will be released May 27th on Animal Style Records and can be pre-ordered here.