Countless playlists and anthologies have collected the greatest songs about a first kiss and a last goodbye; mourning a parent and becoming one yourself; best friends and mortal enemies. As for the cultivation of these relationships, there’s a 256-page book trying to reteach people how to hang out, but pop music isn’t going to be much help. Hovvdy isn’t going to tell you how to navigate these things either. On one song, they’re letting loved ones know that their time together mattered, and on the next they’re setting boundaries. They might reach out to a friend in quiet agony or chastise themselves for not doing so earlier. They’re figuring it all out as it comes, just like the rest of us, and the endlessly generous Hovvdy doesn’t attempt to be a manual for living, but a scrapbook of moments of love and loss from a life well-lived.

A band’s self-titled fifth album can either announce a complete rebrand or a reassertion of identity. Hovvdy is something in between, the culmination of co-songwriter/vocalists Charlie Martin and Will Taylor’s decade-long process of refining and broadening their sound. 2016’s Taster introduced the duo as “pillowcore,” which, like all genre coinage, was silly and also quite descriptive. Taster accurately predicted a future where slowcore, Buzz Bin blockbusters, rootsy bedroom-pop and station-wagon country became the primary colors of indie rock—they’ve since earned the respect of heavy-hitters like Zach Bryan and boygenius. Hovvdy’s music was charming, not crucial, nostalgic without evoking any specific era or age of their own, content to offer a shoulder if someone else wanted to spill their guts.

Despite its relatively supersized specs—19 songs, nominally a double-album—Hovvdy doesn’t see itself as an epic. It doesn’t sprawl; it stretches its legs, kicks its feet up. The boldest experiments all ended up as singles; “Forever” is contented adult commitment in sentiment, MTV Spring Break in sound as Martin experiments with a half-rapped cadence over Dust Brothers record scratches. In a good pair of headphones, the riff of “Jean” imagines “Jessica” getting a microhouse cuts-and-clicks treatment. The giddy and gooey “Every Exchange” is part “Butterfly Kisses,” part “Fireflies” and all heart. “Til I Let You Know” is initially a spare sketch in the middle of Hovvdy until it gets reprised as the album’s climax on “Bad News,” recalling any number of bloghouse bangers that gave someone their third wind in the late aughts.

Hovvdy has released albums called True Love and Billboard for My Feelings, but they never quite embodied those concepts as wholly as they do on “Meant,” which recasts their cover of Coldplay’s “Warning Sign” as proof of concept for their own Klieg-lit power ballad. A singles-only version of Hovvdy would still be seven tracks and a sci-fi lark where the band time travels across the last 25 years of recombinant alt-rock. Within the greater fabric of Hovvdy, they are joyous peaks, proof of how songs mocked in a more self-conscious time can be rehabbed and heard anew through a cunning needle drop, a class reunion, or just through the ears of a kid.

After 17 tracks, Hovvdy is ready to reveal its thesis statement: “We’ll do a whole lot of talking/Don’t a lot have to happen,” Martin sings on the aching “Angel.” In moments like these, Hovvdy’s primary artistic analog might not be other musicians so much as Richard Linklater—another Lone Star sentimentalist who lets his work unfold at life’s pace, cobbling together a series of scenes and characters that vaguely resemble a plot. Linklater’s films are often considered comedies, though from an older, more cynical perspective, they might actually be psychological horror films with the prospect of adulthood looming offscreen like an invisible, airborne monster. The video for Hovvdy’s finest song, 2019’s “Ruin (my ride),” was their “party at the moon tower” minus the buzzkill brawl, with Martin, Taylor, and their friends doing an increasingly drunken Texas two-step late into the summer night, living out the happy future that no one in Dazed and Confused or Everybody Wants Some!! got to see for themselves.

Yet the five years since has rendered “Ruin (my ride)” a bittersweet memory as well. Hovvdy are no longer the inseparable buds implied by the album cover—Martin lives in Nashville, and Taylor in St. Louis. Though Hovvdy toggles back and forth between lead vocals, the perspective is fairly consistent, earnest optimism spiked with just enough conflict to make it all feel earned. Taylor and Martin’s vocals top out at a frustrated exhale, yet they know how to bite down on expressions of absence—“I swore you left town, maaan” or “My bad I ghosted again.” Martin rues the limitations of his brotherly love on “Bubba,” and when he repeats “God I hate it, it has the jarring impact of a black metal howl.

In talking about Hovvdy to another longtime fan, I speculated that you could make a drinking game out of every time they say “love” or “light,” or the name of a family member, or a local landmark, or a Southern interstate. It was meant as a joke, but that’s kind of the point of Hovvdy; taking the time to truly savor the warm glow of a friendship maintained over time and space, service to the suffering rendered gladly, or just a day where you took the long way home just because that’s what your teenage self might’ve admired. It’s almost too easy to quote the climactic line from Linklater’s coming-of-age opus Boyhood: “The moment is constant, the moment seizes us.” But Martin and Taylor don’t think in opuses, in grand gestures and proclamations, in magic or illusion. Hovvdy simply slows down time just long enough to capture the beauty in the moments that always threaten to float away if they’re not captured immediately and cherished.

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