On "Heza," the New Orleans indie rock band is going through changes.
Last year, Generationals' Ted Joyner told My Spilt Milk, "I can feel our stuff evolving, but I can't put my finger on what it's evolving into." Heza is evidence of that period of transition. "Kemal" has elements of "When They Fight, They Fight," but the girl group homage so obvious in the track from 2009's Con-Law is better integrated into the band's larger pop vocabulary. Similarly, the churning, chiming guitars that open "Spinoza" bring to mind The Cure, but the album doesn't disappear into an '80s hole after it.
Heza presents Joyner and Grant Widmer confident enough in their musical persona to relax and let the album breathe. Generationals songs often come at you eager to be loved, armed with a handful of hooks so that if one doesn't catch you, one of the others will. The songs on Heza are more measured. When something cool happens like the emulation of bones sample integral to bounce shows up in the intro to "Say When," you can still remember you heard it when you get to the smart, brittle guitar figure that plays the song out.
I generally focus on the popcraft of Generationals songs because it usually feels like their songs are about pop, and the words are just things to sing to carry the melody. I doubt that's really the case though, and it's the band's shortcoming. "I Used to Let You Get to Me" is a title that suggests the singer is irritated rather than heartbroken, and so does the performance. Perhaps that's what the song's actually about, but the controlled moderateness of the band eventually leaves me wanting a more intense moment somewhere over the course of 30 to 40 minutes of music.
That said, I enjoy every song on Heza when heard on its own or in a mix. The slightly tense, controlled energy is an essential part of who Generationals are, and hearing them wallow in a sloppy pool of their flailing emotions is as undesirable as it is unimaginable. My suspicion is that the less relentless songs are simply part of the band's development as it learns to create tracks in which something more's at stake.