The record kicks off with the title track which is a perfect introduction to this journey. With the sound of a consistent, driving rain followed by a low end piano chord, "Love Hard" grabs you and refuses to let go! With its tribal drum beat and haunting backing vocals, which cascade back and forth and side to side, this opening song promises to keep you holding on for the remaining eight songs.
The next track, "Upturned Faces", follows suit with its low piano and layered vocals but this time incorporates a new wave-ish beat that keeps you moving along with the tempo. "Do Do Do Do" is next and has a pleasing, electronic, atmospheric vibe. This sounds like a B-side to the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour or Sgt. Pepper's albums. It's slightly experimental but with enough construct and form to sing a long with.
The fourth track, "Close To Me" is the diamond in the grab bag of jewels that is Love Hard. This is easily, by far, one of my favorite songs of 2016! It's a 1950's death prom anthem. It's got a beautifully sad edge with twisted, uplifting undertones. It's like nothing I can remember hearing before and it makes me angry that I haven't. Mina's haunting melody as she cries "I need you now" during its chorus is heartbreaking yet fulfilling all at the same time. Her anguished vocals slowly build and lead you to a triumphant climax at songs end. That and a perfectly placed guitar solo walk you right out of the song and almost beg you to play it again. It has potential classic written all over it.
The next two songs, "Girl in the Velvet Band" and "Doll Poem" have a similar feel and sound. There's a touch of Alternative Country swimming between these two tracks. "Girl in the Velvet Band" is the most upbeat and perky song on the record and "Doll Poem" has a serious tinge throughout. Almost feels like a Tori Amos song at times, and who doesn't love Tori Amos?
"Lonely Wolf" is a mix of acoustic rhythm with electronic drive. It's a song with a wide open space for Mina to move, live and work in. It's a slow gallop through content isolation. Following "Lonely Wolf" is the albums most eclectic and experimental track, "Lifeline of a Stranger". If ever listening to music through headphones delivered a pay off, this is a song that embodies that to the fullest extent. Its mix of piano, trip-hop, electro-pop (think Radiohead's Kid A but less robotic) and repetitive vocals transport you through the human condition buried in fuzz and noise rock. This is one of those songs that forces you to listen several times over to make sure you discover something new each time.
Love Hard ends with a cover of the 1981 hit by Kim Carnes, "Bette Davis Eyes" (written and recorded originally in 1974 by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon) but hold on folks...this is a completely different song. I'm a child of the 80's and I remember hearing the Kim Carnes version seemingly every day of my life throughout that entire decade. Mina Caputo's version though is a stripped down, ripped up, deconstructed conception. The vocal production alone is worth giving this one a listen. In a strange way it's not only a varied tribute to the popular version of "Bette Davis Eyes", but something I feel like David Bowie would do if he were still with us and was so inclined to do so.
Overall, Love Hard is quite easy to love. It's a record that weaves honest, heartfelt music with flair and imagination. It's become a trademark of Mina Caputo's solo work and hopefully for her fans, there are many more albums like this to come.