Stephanie Wlosinski (vocals, bass), Mike Bress (guitar, keyboard), Kenny Blesy (lead guitar), Tom Lafferty (drums) are the crew from Buffalo that make up the delightfully named band, Hearts & Hand Grenades. After impressing Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls, who gave them the use of his studio, they released an EP and album, the former to much acclaim in 2021, followed later that year with full-length album, Between The Lines of which I wrote: “This is a strong, varied and enjoyable rock album with shades of heavy and melodic wrapped in a neat parcel.”
They now have a new album out, their third, called Where I Begin and it continues their evolution and maintains their individuality as they fuse hard rock with intelligent pop and punk and, even some gruff, deathly vocals… but (thankfully, from my perspective) not a lot.
The opening track ‘Burn (By My Fire)’ shows that they can do cliche with panache – it’s similar to many melodic heavy rock songs yet has that unique Hearts & Hand Grenades touch that elevates it. Their true skills and identity are better served with the title track which covers so many rock genres that it cannot fail to please: riffing, excellent chorus and some serious depth from all of the band. ‘Better Off Alone’ shows their unerring ability to meld pop, punk and proper rock to produce a catchy, memorable song. ‘Boom’ proves they are equally at home with a more ‘traditional’ heavy rock approach but with an edge some never achieve.
A total change of pace arrives with the chiming acoustic intro of ‘Let Me Down’ – when the electric riff kicks in, it’s sympathetic with the acoustic and vocal melodies and works brilliantly. The growls arrive in the gloriously tongue in cheek ‘I Just Want My Rock’ as the growls devolve into Parton-esque country/pop complete with banjo, followed quickly by a rap section then a great wah solo. Then Steph does her (I’m assured) sort of Britney mock section. It sounds weird but it is simply genius. We also get an acapella intro on the poptastic heavy ‘Silver.’
In summary, Hearts & Hand Grenades have managed to concoct an album that puts rock into the blender to provide one of the more refreshing releases of recent months and will be enjoyed by existing fans in a big way and, if there’s any justice, a whole slew of new fans from across the rock spectrum.
Where I Begin is out on 26th January 2024.