Hermit’s Victory S/T
(Hearts and Plugs – April 7, 2015)
(Alternative, Indie, Pop, Lounge)
Review by Rob Bockman
Charlestonian Tyler Bertges’ first album under the moniker Hermit’s Victory, a self-titled full-length, is already one of the strongest albums of the year to come out of the Southeast—a golden-ratio fusion of analog songwriting and digital production. Bertges, a self-proclaimed songwriter over performer, seems to favor tightness over showiness, which creates an incredibly united aesthetic palette. Synths and sparse instrumentation give Hermit’s Victory an almost chillwave vibe, but rather than the somewhat detached groove chillwave imparts, Bertges’ music is warm and longing. It’s a temptation when you’re writing about a worthwhile debut album to drop back on the old standby, “assured,” but “assured” is a word authority uses to describe something predictable. Hermit’s Victory isn’t assured, and that’s its charm—it’s fragile and anxious and zephyrous, and all the more charming for it. There’s a croaky M. Ward aspect to Bertges’ voice, which drifts over dreamy melodies and spare percussion from producer Wolfgang Zimmerman, a kind of alcoholic sweetness and burn to his instrumentation, and it all comes together with a kind of lingering heat that could make a Bad Brains cover sound like a torch song.
“Mooch,” a smoky and subdued, almost tropical, number that adopts a swooning chorus backed by gentle vocals, is one of the strongest tracks, but the entire album is strong, not just on a track-by-track basis, but as a statement of need and provision. The folky “Sleeping Evil” closes out the album as a kind of belated overture, tying the entire album together and leaving the listener hungry for an instant replay. That kind of recursive listening is encouraged by Hermit’s Victory, an album of poems and koans. The given mantra for standout “Mantras” is “I need you on my side,” a reflection of the simple and aching sustaining lust that drives the album; Bertges’ isn’t looking, necessarily, for lovers or friends, but allies, something at once infinitely simpler and endlessly complicated.
There’s something here that uses the lingua franca of post-millennial synth-pop without fully committing to it—that same spirit that drives a hermit to solitude, while still longing for the glitz and gilt of his vanished society. There’s no sense of the sometimes-stale throwback execution of, say, The Chromatics, but something innocent and nascent—bedroom pop that doesn’t just originate from the bedroom, but belongs there.
Tracks to Watch: “Mooch,” “Mantras,” “Sleeping Evil,” “Islands,” “Mikey Wall St.”
Tracks to Skip: “Palms Conversion,” “Novice”
Setting: Windows down and distant clouds, little bit sunburnt and trying to figure out the next step