There exists a delicate period late at night or early morning, a hazy hour or so hovering around 3:00 am when thoughts twist and turn and weird introspection takes hold, more than just past relationships or daily regrets. These are the deep, existential questions that dwell in the back of our minds. Jon Searles has tapped into this finest hour and turned his brain inside out, and what’s left is Rebel in the Morning’s newest album Hot For A Heathen.
Hot For A Heathen is accessible psychedelic folk at its very best. There are a few genre touchstones, like the cinematic instrumentation one can find while listening to Sufjan Stevens. Like Stevens, Searles never shies from being complex (see: the amalgamation of sounds that make up “A Specter”) while never sacrificing passion or honesty. The first lines of “Sidelines” offer more than just a heart on a sleeve: “You’re coming back from the grave, but you’re probably closer to death than you are to my age.”
Endearing as the music is, it’s still undeniably catchy. But gravitating exclusively to catchy parts like the bombastic foot-stomper “Darkest Hour” with its infectious chorus: “In my nightmare all I’m seeing is you. In my daydream all my nightmares come true,” dismisses what could be the best album I’ve reviewed for this site.
What Jon Searles has done with these twelve tracks is nothing short of remarkable considering the limited budget and production tools available to one man without the backing of a label. This is a DIY tour de force in every sense of the term.
Like a great beer or cup of coffee Hot For A Heathen must be savored, contemplated. You have to chew the music a little; each instrument on every track; and understand the silence that a lack of instrumentation leaves. The Alice In Wonderland-cacophony lurking in the background of “Still” or the celestial soundscape that finishes the album as Searles sings “nothing ever went our way” over and over. You can almost picture the hazy purple of the sun coming over the horizon. It’s all crafted to perfection.
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