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Emerging as one of that top talents in the Twin Cities, local trio Bad Bad Hats released their debut LP on Afternoon Records. Psychic Reader establishes the self-described “Lake Rockers” as more than just another bunch of college cuties: They’re mega cuties. Don’t know what I mean? Simply take a cursory listen to the album and witness a sense of sugary narrative-driven rock that may eat away at your gum line, but will completely re-enamel your definition of “cutie.”
Clocking in at just above 30 minutes, the chaotic debut from the Macalester College grads follows a winding tempo not uncommon to debut efforts such as this, swaying from unrelentingly upbeat on tracks like “Midway” to tender songs better suited for a confession booth like “Things We Never Say.” However, this constant shifting is far from a mark of inexperience-- the consistent tone and adept songwriting of lead vocalist Kerry Alexander weave the fluctuating tempo into a fresh sampling of the group’s abilities as musicians. Showcasing their skills with jangling rock tracks like “Shame” that you could swear belong in The Kills discography or a similar breezy candor to the crooning Beach House on title track “Psychic Reader”, Bad Bad Hats’ overwhelming strength is their ability to tell timeless tales of love, relationships, displacement, and heartache with a modern crispness.
As mentioned, the ear-grabbing “Midway” launches the album with catchy guitar riffs that hint towards a touch of electro-pop but remains firmly grounded in classic indie rock. Warbling rhythms accompany the cherubic vocals of Alexander, conjuring images of sidelong glances and neglected feelings as she wavers over a lover’s coldness, evoked by lyrics like “I wish that you would ask me if I'm feeling alright/The shadows you were casting nearly swallowed the night/But god I could have kissed you...” Her familiar dilemma makes the song easily to accessible to the casual listener, yet intricate in it’s anecdotal theme.
In contrast, Alexander seems to own her feelings of scorn in the garage rocking “Shame” aggressive hooks and all. Screeching her way through a comfortable sounding 2 and a half minutes, Alexander may have made a mistake not taking up a pair of combat boots and leather jacket. The song is an effortless rock classic, audaciously dragging listeners through the kind of bad relationship everyone has had that can only be described in Alexander’s own words as “biting the bullet.” It’s a punchy tune while outside what one might normally expect from the sweetness of the rest of the album.
These two tracks don’t even scratch the surface of such a complex album. Textured with rough personal experiences and a charmingly simple production, it’s a journey worth joining. Bad Bad Hats may be fresh faces in the scene but Psychic Reader makes for a hell of a debut and an excellent late summer jam.