Self Defense Family is more of a collective than a band, and their releases can be seen as artistic expressions rather than just albums. Yet on their newest release Heaven Is Earth, they show that they still put out some of the tightest post-punk/post-hardcore today. While the musical experimentation and poetic lyrics are as prominent as ever, the band is able wrap everything up in nice little song structures that make this an eclectic but cohesive listen.
The album comes across very light in tone musically, with airy and reverb heavy guitar throughout, but vocalist Patrick Kindlon has enough angst behind his voice to make the whole thing still come across as aggressive. Songs like “In My Defense Self Defend Me” and “Basic Skills” feature a multitude of instruments playing seemingly simple lines that give the songs complexity in how they come together. The guitar riffs and drum parts may be looping over and over in some parts, but the arrangement and how each part is built on top of each other demonstrates how strong this group of musicians is at crafting songs.
Heaven Is Earth also sees Self Defense Family trying out some new styles and giving more prominence to things they’ve hinted at in the past. “Talia” comes off with a very strong folk vibe with its western sounding guitar and lots of harmonica. “Prison Ring” and “Dave Sim,” with their dark and spacey tones, are great examples of the band showing off more of a post-punk vibe on this album.
Kindlon’s vocals and lyrics are as emotional and haunting as ever, but what really struck me while listening is how they are so well mixed in with the rest of the music. It feels more like another instrument to serve in the wall of sound they create, rather than the leading force of the songs. I really like how at times it can be hard to hear the vocals, as they are low and kind of mixed in the background, and other times they are more prominent. This always seems to match the feel of the songs.
I’ll admit I’m relatively new to Self Defense Family, and what drew me to check them out was my growing personal appreciation of and interest in post-punk. What I found here is something more though. The band celebrates experimentation and complexity built on top of simplicity, and it’s all done in a very captivating way. Longtime fans of the band are sure to love this one, and if you are new to the band like me, take it for a spin and bask in its chilled out glory.