ep review ~ hurdles ~ 'where to start'

For many years the fast paced riffs of the 'indie-rock' scene had been the only genre that continually eluded the diverse musical landscape of Belfast. Recently, however, a distinct group of bands have begun to pick up the baton thrown down in recent years by the likes of The (early) Arctic Monkeys, The Twang and Franz Ferdinand. Paving the way for the Northern Irish indie outfit, have been undoubtedly Two Door Cinema Club, who's melodic jangle and polished tones have sound-tracked many a teenage sit-com. Belfast's newest purveyors of indie rock, 'Hurdles' seem to be blazing their own trail, still very much in the 'indie' category, but with an added depth and back beat that has seen the hype for their debut Ep, 'Where To Start' sky rocket, despite being one of the countries newest bands. Taylor Johnson had a sneak preview of what's in store...

Opening with the appropriately titled 'Intro', Hurdles debut Ep certainly starts as it means to go on. The technical brilliance of drummer Ross Haymes is only eluded to in the opening bars, as steady interplay between the drum and bass look to create a sense of anticipation. As a gentle, yet menacing guitar riff begins to build towards the first crashing climax of the Ep, it's the bands tight rhythm section that suitably set up whats in store. As the upbeat riff is left to resonate around the bands confident and dynamic approach, it paves the way for the title track, 'Where To Start'. Built on the kind of exciting flourishes that ensured The Strokes classic debut 'Is This It' was as influential as it was, the track beautifully sets a positive and bright tone, Nial Hanna's emotive croon proving a stunning and harmonious contrast that helps to bring the passion of the track alive. Haymes drumming again provides an incredibly strong back bone to proceedings, but the most impressive aspect lies in the bands ability to capture the energy and enthusiasm of their live performances on record - the unfortunate downfall of many promising local acts. As the song bounces along to it's climax, the bar is immediately set very high through a beautifully energised opening.

This is followed by 'Roadrunner', a slightly slower riff driven piece, that importantly looses none of the previous tracks rhythmic backbeat or punchy finish. The inclusion of subtle harmonic bells highlights a fragility to the bittersweet lyrics of isolation that course through the heart of the song. 'Back on my own, it won't make sense...', again setting Hurdles apart from many of the two dimensional pop-styled lyrics they could so easily have fallen into. A well constructed break down leads to a crescendo of crashing drums and emotive guitar solos, not disimilar to a Sam's Town-era Killers.

The synth lead ending of Roadrunner then drifts seamlessly into the Ep's lead single, 'Control'. Eoin Bleeks complex bass lines are given centre stage here, as Hurdles look to kick things up a gear. At times, the ethereal qualities of 'Control' give it a Cure like relaxation, that always looks likely to burst into life. Hanna's vocal delivery remains as committed as ever, gently weaving through the indie riff undercurrent. Indeed, the Bombay Bicycle styled refrain of  'If I could just control you, If I could just control...' may be one of Hanna's strongest and most serene deliveries of the Ep, the highnote within it as engaging as any on the indie market to date. 'Control' shows the groups ability to create an authentically original and indie styled track with enough commercial appeal to be played on any major radio station. Even the rockier breakdown towards the end of the song only serves to enhance the bands sound, adding yet another accolade to their diverse sound.

The record is then finished in style with the awesome 'Ruthless'. A seemingly obvious choice for single, delicate pop hooks are scattered over one of the catchiest guitar riffs your likely to hear this year. Fast paced and incredibly invigorating, 'Ruthless' channels all of Hurdles most melodic and vibrant qualities into a track of real style. As the singalong chorus of 'Far below, under the ocean, burning up, under the sun' plays out, the joy of Hurdles sunny disposition is emphasized once more. A wonderful ending, to a brilliant debut.

With a well developed sound and growing fan base, Hurdles have found the perfect balance between highly charged, indie optimism and effortless charisma.

If this is where Hurdles have decided to start, I predict a very bright future indeed for Belfast's most exciting band.

Review by Taylor Johnson.

If you like; Los Campesinos!, The Strokes, (Early) The Killers | You'll love Hurdles

Check out Encore NI's exclusive interview with Hurdles here.

Keep up to date with the band on the links below...

'Where To Start' will be released on October 10th ~ With a launch gig at The Speakeasy in Belfast.

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