Boy Hero – Year One

 Boy Hero – Year One

Boy Hero – Year One – EP Review

Post-Hardcore, but make it anime.

As the opening track “Anteiku” started up with such a pleasant, unassuming, non-aggressive vibe, I still braced myself for the burst of energy that would theoretically be coming right around the corner at any possible moment, given Boy Hero’s self-described take on the sound.  If it all sounded just like “Anteiku” did, you’d probably end up describing it differently…it’d be closer to Post-Rock, or arguably, with the tiny amount of vocals inside this less than two-minute opening track, maybe even Spoken Word.  No worries though y’all…I can promise ya, if you came here to our site today looking for “Post-Hardcore, but make it anime” – Boy Hero will go on to supply what you’re after.  Can’t give the entire game away in one intro-style tune though, right?  Let the curiosity build I say!  Besides…I actually dig the way that Boy Hero has got this like, calm & serene melody guiding “Anteiku” along, and I loved the way the guitar came in towards the end to ramp up the finale & provide a completely different dimension to the vibe.  Great contrast, color, and personality in this first impression of Boy Hero’s Year One – a track like “Anteiku” is definitely the kind of song that gets me interested in listening to the rest that follows, even if we can safely bet on the way this band has been described that the sound is certainly about to change.

“Pretender, Remember” will give you that instant hit of energy you were likely expecting from Boy Hero.  While it’s my own first experience with their music, it’s far from their first rodeo – from what I can see on their Spotify page alone, it looks like Boy Hero traces back to at least 2016, so it makes sense to hear such exceptional execution in a song like “Pretender, Remember.”  This is as tight as tight can be if you ask me…the fireworks are constantly on display, and you can hear a strong grip on songwriting in this band.  From the scorching hot melody and blazing dynamics of the music, to the clever design of the vocal rhythms and flow…I mean, “Pretender, Remember” has all the right pieces of the puzzle to give you the full picture of what Boy Hero is all about, along with a serious audible dose of their potency.  It gets to the point where you’d struggle to pick out your favorite component of a song like this, because the balance is freakishly impeccable.  Most of the time, I felt like I was gravitating towards the vocals, purely based on the fact that this dude can SING y’all…there’s a spot around the like…hmm…it’s around the 2:25-2:30 mark…it’ll genuinely blow your mind, and it’ll reappear around 2:50 as well.  Any doubters would be silenced by notes as remarkable as those are…this singer is off-the-charts awesome.  What I loved though, was after you get that first hit of how incredible the guy can really be around that 2:30 mark, the instrumentation is like, hold my fucking beer, and goes on to light up your speakers right after.  Then you have to consider the fact that the songwriting/execution has been nothing short of killer from the beginning to the end, and you see the conundrum we’re in here?  EVERYTHING IS AWESOME – so you don’t really even get the option to feel like this part or that part is carrying the weight.  It’s truly the balance of strengths in a song like “Pretender, Remember” that ends up stealing the show by the end.  I listen to a track like this and end up wondering how the fuck Boy Hero isn’t already a household name.  With quality like this, they certainly should be.  Bonus shout-outs to Eric Kyu Bensen for his guest appearance as well.  I have no idea who does what, or if there’s even more than one member of Boy Hero…it could very well be one dude with the occasional guest-star…all I know is what sounds awesome, and this is definitely that.  “Pretender, Remember” is the anthemic energy you want for your summer.

As far as “Hayashi” was concerned…I mean, we’re talking about a sound that is brilliantly cohesive overall dear readers, dear friends.  Do I like “Pretender, Remember” better than “Hayashi?”  Probably.  But that’s simply based on the strengths of the hooks and what personally appeals to my own ears – and even then, we’re still essentially splitting hairs.  If we’re talking about execution and all that, I don’t think anyone could justifiably choose between the second and third cut on this record, because the attention to detail never drops one iota.  The energy of “Hayashi” is FIERCE AF y’all, and it’s more than clear that Boy Hero has an incredible grip on how to go about using the ol’ loud/quiet dynamics to their advantage – the understanding of how effective contrast can be, is staggering.  I think if anything, sure, you can probably pin down influences like Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy more concretely based on what you’ll hear in a song like “Hayashi” and how it’s played, sung, and designed overall…but if you think I’m gonna be the guy complaining about comparisons like those, guess again.  I might never have been a major Fall Out Boy fan, but I respected the shift they helped create in music during their time – but if we’re talking about Panic! At The Disco, that’s a whole different story…I was a raving lunatic of a fan up until about the last album or so…maybe two.  In any event, there’s never been an album I haven’t found something I’d end up being addicted to by either of those bands, so if you’re asking me, and it seems like someone out there has, I’d tell ya that Boy Hero is keeping some seriously killer company in these comparisons.  The material is damn near bulletproof to begin with, but when you factor in that it’s practically only rivaled by the execution of Boy Hero, well…that’s a pretty damn good recipe for success ain’t it?  “Hayashi” will go on to display more teeth and a bigger bite than the comparisons I’ve made through some venomous vocals that’ll come in throughout the background and take over the spotlight towards the end, which provides an additional layer of excitement and fired-up energy…but if I’m being real with ya, I don’t even know that Boy Hero needs to add that in…they already had me signed, sealed, and delivered through the raw power of the vocal melodies before that, and equally impressed by the versatility in the songwriting.

I think a lot of people out there will appreciate the diversity to be found in Year One.  “In Choosing Both, You Lose Both,” is a great example of a track you probably wouldn’t necessarily expect to find on what’s considered to be a Post-Hardcore band.  Not impossible, but improbable to an extent…just unexpected really, but that’s the kind of unpredictable cleverness and variable sound that can really lead a band to some spectacular breakthroughs over the course of a career.  What I hear in Boy Hero is a band that has decided to wisely keep the door open to other possibilities…a much more fluid concept of what their sound is, rather than rigidly adhere to one specific style.  I know deep down that the songs with vocals are going to get a larger share of the attention from listeners out there, and rightly so – like I told ya before, this dude can fuckin’ sing with the best of’em, truly – but hopefully these instrumentally-based cuts don’t just get passed over, because they’re great songs as well.  I really thought that “Anteiku” was a stellar start to Year One, and if I’m being real with ya, I’m probably even more of a fan of “In Choosing Both, You Lose Both.”  You’ll find that kind of similarly contemplative, thought-provoking, evocative, melodic magic that has created artists like The Album Leaf and given them such longevity over time.  That’s more excellent company for Boy Hero to be keeping, in my opinion…and it’s tracks like “In Choosing Both, You Lose Both” that highlight the extraordinary level of versatility that keeps us all interested and engaged.  Like how Boy Hero is so able to use the dynamics within songs like “Pretender, Remember” to their advantage, they’ve laid out the album in a similar way too…so you get moments of real clarity like “Anteiku” or “In Choosing Both, You Lose Both,” staged smartly around the harder stuff.

It’ll obviously be tough to escape comparisons to Brendon Urie…that’s an influence that’s unmistakable in Boy Hero’s music, and even more-so if you’re talkin’ about the vocals.  On “not turtley enough for The Turtle Club,” you can hear it more prevalent as the song shifts between singers between its featured guest Bad Feelings, and what we know is the Urie-influenced sound of Boy Hero in its natural state.  I like both though…they both sound great to me, and they sing really well together.  I still think that the most memorable track you’ll find on this EP is probably going to be “Pretender, Remember” in the long run, but the main chorus hooks of “not turtley enough for The Turtle Club” could potentially go the distance too, even if it’s to a lesser extent.  It’s definitely got the advantage of one of the best song titles you’ll ever come across this side of the music that CLIFFDIVER puts out.  The main thing, like I always tell ya on these pages of ours, is that regardless of anyone’s personal taste which is well beyond anyone’s control, all you can do is ensure that the quality in what you create stays consistent – and I feel like Boy Hero is straight aces in that regard.  If you’re putting in the effort at the kind of high level that this band is, believe me, you’ll give every song on your albums or EPs the chance to become someone’s favorite.  Where I might be more attached to “Pretender, Remember” – I’m confident that I’d be able to show you a dozen other people that would be stoked to argue that “not turtley enough for The Turtle Club” is actually a stronger song.  “And so it turns…the wheel,” as IDLES would tell ya…we all like what we like and we love what we love – Boy Hero should be proud of the fact that nothing on this EP is going to make anyone feel indifferent whatsoever…ultimately, that’s what matters most.  People are always going to have their favorites, and 9.9/10 they’re never going to be the artist’s or band’s favorite cuts anyhow…so you know…there’s that.  I remain impressed by the cohesiveness of the material and the sensational consistency in the execution of Boy Hero from track to track throughout the course of Year One.  Right now, there’s not a doubt in my mind that this is one of the better records I’ve heard in 2024.

Has there been like, some kind of report or feedback that has led Boy Hero to feel like we can’t hear the vocals?  Why you yellin’ at me so hard bruh?  I swear I haven’t had a problem hearing ya at any point in time on this EP, yet here we are, and dude’s yelling into the mic like it owes him money at the end of Year One.  So be it.  I ain’t opposed to it necessarily…but even though the screaming comes out strong for them, ask yourselves this question as you’re listening – do you feel like that aspect is the real strength of the song overall?  I’ll answer that for ya while I’m here – it’s not.  The natural singing voice of this dude is nothing short of perfection at all times…so yeah, it’d be hard to argue that he should spend more time screamin’ at us than singing for us, you know what I mean?  Now…we can talk about the fact that one part kinda needs the other for contrast and to create a noticeable impact – I’ll have that conversation, and I’m sure we’d end up agreeing that it’s true…each half of this song’s personality does kind of need the other to be as effective at grabbing our attention as they are.  That being said, like, c’mon…you pass the two-minute mark and hear Boy Hero slow things down for a moment and let the magic of melody get it’s deserved moment in the spotlight and tell me that you wouldn’t sit there and listen to this guy sing the fuckin’ phonebook atcha if he were so inclined!?!  Are you gonna let him sit there and SCREAM the phonebook atcha?  Probably not!  At least, unless your air conditioner is broken – if it is, you might consider it, because you can physically FEEL the force of this dude’s words when he’s at his most intense, and it might just cool ya down in the summer while he makes you shit your pants in fear at the same time.  And maybe that’s your jam – no judgements here.  All I’m saying is that, “lifeless, like you,” has some of the BEST parts in any song as far as the vocal melody is concerned…and if I’m gonna be here advocating for anything in particular, it’s definitely going to be Boy Hero’s natural vocals rather than the spit-fueled rage that tends to come along with the Post-Hardcore crowd.  Though, every time this song started up again, I felt like I was more & more impressed by the control on the screaming – so don’t get it twisted, I’ve got nothing but love for execution at this caliber, even if it’s not my favorite part of the song.  I get to the chorus just prior to the first minute and I’m like…good lord…that’s the kind of part that most bands and artists would be stoked to create just once in the course of an entire career, and it’s merely one of many examples of how Boy Hero has been able to do that throughout the six cuts in this set-list.  Regardless of what I might think about how necessary the screaming is or isn’t, by the time I went to post this review up, I’d say that “lifeless, like you” was quite likely my second favorite track on this album, right behind “Pretender, Remember,” and still giving it a good run for its money.  I like a great scream just as much as anyone…and I’d say that the attack of this song continued to grow on me the more I listened – but that it was still the hit of that immaculate melody in the chorus that sealed the deal every single time I heard it.  All-in-all though, the quality never drops at any point throughout Year One, and there’s no question that Boy Hero has the ability to create songs you’ll never forget.  I’ve heard plenty on this record already, and I have no doubt that there is more in the back catalog and more in their future ahead…this band is firing on all cylinders and a massive pleasure to listen to, even when they’re screaming at us.  They’re owning their moment, 100%…confidence like this sounds fantastic.

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