Hawthorne Heights – ‘Lost Lights’

By Katherine Allvey

In the midst of the pandemic, Hawthorne Heights frontman and elder emo JT Woodruff needed some peace and quiet. He found a ‘crimson red cabin in rural Ohio’ and settled in for the night. Throwing another log into the fire, Woodruff stared deep into the flames and had an epiphany. “I felt myself letting go of things that I didn’t realise that I was hanging on to, and I immediately felt relief,” he confessed. “I realised that I needed to set a fire inside of myself, and burn it down.” That moment of self-discovery was the seed for Hawthorne Heights’ latest EP, their first release since 2021’s full length ‘The Rain Just Follows Me’.

‘Lost Lights’ could easily have been titled ‘How I Spent My Emo Woodland Vacation by JT Woodruff, aged Forty Seven and a Half’. It’s a five-track diary of his trip, a window into his consciousness via his forest adventure. The classic Hawthorne Heights scream is mostly forsaken for melodic tinges of regret and constructed guitar squeals. Their previous use of universal themes is boiled down and concentrated into a small drop of confessional tincture. At points, they channel Alkaline Trio, albeit with Skiba and co’s gratuitous murder references replaced with reflection on what went wrong.

Woodruff’s voice, as ever, is relatable to the introspective underdog listener and the way he poetically summarises a punk mid-life crisis is pinpoint precise. He lays his worries about the future bare for our judgement, especially on ‘Lucerne Valley’; “Back and forth keep running through my head… Burn it, burn it down! Will it ever stop? Will the rain keep falling down? Will it ever stop? Will we ever lose this sound?” His panic is put to a melody, and we’re placed in the uncomfortable position of a spectator watching Woodruff implode in front of our eyes. “I’m so empty, it’s really got a hold on me, I’m so tired and it’s out of control,” he sings on ‘Empty’, and you just want to give him a sweater and a mug of hot chocolate while simultaneously marvelling at how he can express his fears so fluently.

This EP might be the turning point on Hawthorne Heights’ long and winding road. In a year or two, we may well see them dropping a folk album and turning their lyrical twists to lonely acoustic tunes a la Dan Adriano. They could chronicle their journey towards happiness as Beartooth have done on recent albums. Right now, they’re still lost in the woods emotionally, but musically? They’re in top form.

KATE ALLVEY

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