When I started to become an obsessive music fan, bands like New Order and The Cure were still in the musical margins. Their combination of discordant notes nestled in either a dance beat or a pop hook really started to take off by the mid-’80s. Nowadays? Well, they are considered “classics.” And as classics they have a great deal of influence over up and coming artists — as well as some established bands.
Nova Heart is one of those up and coming bands. They hail from China, but their sound channels those discordant and moody Brits from the ‘80s in a very satisfying manner. On their first full-length recording since their debut EP in 2013 (“Beautiful Boys”), Nova Heart is coming out the gate very strong and surprisingly seasoned. The album’s first single “We Are Golden” was featured on my “Single Play” column a while back, and after spending a few weeks with Nova Heart’s album, I have to say that most of the record is fairly solid.
Many albums start out with a “cooker” as an opening track. Usually, it’s a single, or an upbeat number to really announce the presence of the band. Not so with Nova Heart. “Drive To Our End” is a slow roaster that builds to a smoldering finish. “Lackluster Number” sounds the most like The Cure in terms of the music. However, Helen Feng’s vocals forges ahead with her own identity. There’s no Robert Smith whine or Bernard Sumner monotone. Rather, Feng’s singing is both spare and halting in delivery, but she never underdelivers or struggles to serve the song.
The rest of the record is satisfying in that the group demonstrates that they are not Johnny One-Notes. From the propulsive “My Song” to the galloping “No Controversy,” and the more avant-garde “Evil” the album is chock-full of well constructed and produced songs. Where the record starts to lose its inventiveness is toward the end with “Right Wrong” and an unnecessary cover of “Dancing Barefoot.” Despite those missteps, however, Nova Heart’s self-titled album is a refreshing twist on some classic New Wave sounds.