Ethan Larsh is from Waynesboro, PA – I did a short review of it in issue #6 of Subversive Zine (page 28) where I called it “Piano driven power pop that surely reminds the listener of some sort of long lost Ben Folds B-sides. Nothing here is the result of someone taking themselves seriously. The music is composed well with fitting simple lyrics over top. Any musician trying to revive power pop should take a listen to this album to see where it can be taken. Too many other artists now are just rehashing 90s acts that are long gone, while Larsh is paving his own way. Smooth guitars, complicated drums and lazy day grunge vocals make this a must listen for all.”
Now I dive into it track for track.
“Intro” – A series of brilliantly orchestrated harmonies make way to a comically funny lyric reference to Larsh’s own album: “You’re down and out – feeling bad – only one thing to do – I’ll be your clown – you’ll feel glad – you just gotta listen to “Ethan Larsh Breaks Hearts”. The beginning electric piano tone/riff reminded me so heavily of another song… I sat and pondered for a bit until I realize it was “Singing In My Sleep” by Semisonic (A song I love dearly, by the way) so this track won me over just for that. Turns out it doesn’t sound too similar, but anyway…. Yes, I did jam to “Singing In My Sleep” before resuming Larsh’s tune. “Intro” leads directly into the next song seamlessly.
“Belleville” – Upbeat piano driven rocker with some mild guitar shredding and felt out drumming with plenty of ghost-notes. It reflects on that magical feeling you get when you imagine going to that special place you’ve always dreamed of: “All I ever wanted to was get out of here and leave with you – forget the small town life, throw it away – pack my suitcase with everything we need and my heart will race..” I love that last lyric..
“You Don’t Know Me” – A genius indecisive love song – “it hurts to be with you and it hurts to be without you too”. Plenty of oo-s and la-s within the backing vocals. It’s almost got that early 60s pop feel but has a twist in an XTC sort of style. String parts (violin, etc.) result in an incredible ending buildup that is certainly not heard in most music being put out today.
“Most of the Time” – Cowbell/shakers highlight the track while a genuine guitar funk rhythm (think Nile Rodgers/Chic) and up tempo piano make the song jive. Larsh hits a perfect high vocal note at the 3:14 mark. A perfect example of how the songs on this album evolve. The lyrics dive deep contemplation about loneliness, death and more heavily soaked in the a layer of humor “Will I have children? Will I have a wife? Will I end up being a mess? – And I must confess – That most of the time I feel like I am losing my god damn mind.”
“Breaking up the Band” – Starts as a depressedly downtempo ballad that slows down the album for the first time. The verses seem to be about dark betrayal while the chorus focuses on a band splitting up. ”And I’m sorry, man, if I ruined all of your plans – we’ll have to stow away the van – because I’m breaking up the band”.
“I Like the Ocean” – A dancey number with continuing repetitive verses and no chorus.”I like my coffee when it’s filled to the brim – and I like your face because it’s so serene – and I like you and you like me – we’re like two birds sitting in a sycamore tree” Similar to one of my favorite songs in this lyrical style: “Being Around” by The Lemonheads. This point especially rings true in Larsh’s lines “I like my bed because I love to sleep – and I write songs cause it’s fun to make up rhymes”
“Coca-Cola” – Bluesy jam about the love of “Coca-Cola”. One of the most hysterical songs on the album. “I don’t care much for Dr. Pepper, don’t much like the taste of Sprite. There is only one soda that makes me feel alright – heaven knows I love coca-cola, it’s the best drink money can buy. I’m gonna drink it till the day I die.”
“I Miss Cocaine” – One of those power pop songs that’s catchy but makes you feel a little strange for liking it. “I miss cocaine and how it affects my brain”
“Anette” – Classic awkward love song with a name attached. Cute anecdotes reflect on an innocent infatuation. “I can’t sleep at night – not cause I’m sad or not feeling alright – I’m stuck on your long red hair, your glasses, your piercing stare” – “I see how nervous you are when you kiss me in the car – I’m always nervous too” – “When I’m with you I feel like I can forget – and I feel just like a little child – Annette”
“How Was It?” – Simple piano and light intertwined guitar parts create an airy feel. Larsh is at it again with classic repetitive line choruses that make for great power pop: “How was it when you broke my heart? How was it when you tore my life apart? Did it feel good when you hurt my pride? Can I ask, do you feel satisfied?” The chunky guitar solo in the middle is for sure the highlight.
“I Break Hearts All Around the World” – Reminded me of the emotional piano based melodic work Harvey Danger did. Check out “Pike St./Park Slope” for reference.
“Tick Tock” – We’re All Going to Die” – Demented old-timey swing/jazz that reminds us all of our eventual demise. “Tick-tock, tick-tock, we’re all gonna die” Quite an interesting way to end an album, indeed.
Overall, Ethan Larsh’s “Ethan Larsh Breaks Hearts” is a must listen for any fan of 90s inspired power pop filled with authentic/comedic lyrics, layered harmonies and fascinating musical arrangements. The album is perfectly executed and such a fun and amusing listen.