Album of the Day: Heat, “Overnight”

Heat are from Montreal, and they formed in the early ‘10s, but their music sounds like it comes from the UK in the early ‘80s—the exact moment when the dour nihilism of bands like Joy Division and Section 25 were giving way to the romantic disaffection of the Psychedelic Furs and Echo & the Bunnymen. Like those bands, Heat have mastered the classic trick of dressing up pristine pop choruses in rain macs, fingerless gloves, and army boots so that they can convincingly bum cigs from the art kids after school.

The aptly-titled Overnight is a long, boozy odyssey through city streets after the bars have closed; there’s love—or, more accurately, lust—on the record, but the overriding sense is that all of these scenarios are playing out in the protagonist’s head as he trips from corner to corner under the pink streetlights. It’s closest in tone to the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You,” vocalist Susil Sharma rifling through past liaisons in his brain over the course of a single, blurry night.

The lyrics, appropriately, evoke Verlaine—both Tom and Paul. There’s Jane the libertine, Buddha, Christ, and a “Joan of Arc of teenage lust,” all of which would land with a loud clang if they weren’t surrounded by sumptuous, black-velvet guitars and delivered in Sharma’s coolly detached, bored-lothario vocals. (Despite being born in New Brunswick and living in Canada, Sharma sounds impressively British throughout). Every song on Overnight is immaculately constructed; big, pealing guitars kick out unapologetically melodic leads, basslines roam anxiously among thumping percussion, Sharma seethes and sneers; every element joins forces for soaring, Pretty in Pink choruses. All of this sounds like a series of backhanded compliments, but it’s not: Overnight stuns because every element is meticulously arranged to deliver maximum emotional impact. Wry verses explode into beaming refrains like a bitter cynic suddenly discovering true love. “The Unknown” opens with a clarion call of guitar and works its way into a chorus that struts and pouts with confidence. “Still, Soft” is almost entirely submerged in feedback, but the “doot-doot-doot” refrain bobbles its way cheerily to the top. And “Lush” is sewn up in sparkling spiderwebs of guitar, which gorgeously offset Sharma’s chiaroscuro vocal. By the end of Overnight, Sharma has found his way out of the city and is walking along the beach, sun coming up, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” floating above his head. It’s a surprisingly optimistic ending to a record that spends most of its time fusing pop immediacy with emotional distance. Needless to say, its chorus is tremendous.

J. Edward Keyes

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