Review: HIJK - The Pen And The Letter

To many, emo is the domain of angsty teenagers, the shouty rock anthems designed never to be heard by anyone who has graduated beyond student years. HIJK have been labelled as emo but there’s a lot more going on than that. They are really one of those outfits who try and put as many melodic shifts and thrills in to one record as they can. ‘The Pen And The Letter’ is their first album and is a great statement of intent.

HIJK CD Cover

Undoubtedly the key moment is ‘Paper Boat’; its punky guitars, understanding of dynamics and thrilling yet apparently nonsense lyrical hooks (”I’m gonna take your TV set. I’m gonna smash it with my guitar neck. The paper boat is soaking wet. Let’s take a hideout and sleep for a while”) make for a perfect alternative pop song. Opening track ‘Alibi’ features similarly earnest yet sweet vocals and more neat melodic turns. Thanks to its robust, passionate harmonies, ‘Smells Like Cigarettes’ gives modern punk music a good name, ‘September Looms On Hill’ and the piano-led ‘Writers Block’ is the band at their achingly melancholic best whilst the spiky, angular guitars and call and response vocals stand out ’Elly & Iffy’. The real skill is that this Californian trio experiment with song structure, throwing the listener yet another curveball just when they think they have understood the melodic path of the song. There are a couple of weaker tracks on an overlong album but most of the time the invention and twists on the record kept me riveted.

Leonard's Lair