Dozy, fuzz-toned pop dies on the vine when it roots in the messily lackadaisical—take the example of shoegazing beyond the epic savagery of My Bloody Valentine. Where Hunters is concerned, there’s a spunky, punkish element involved, something you can blame/credit on frontgirl Izzy Almeida and her schoolgirl yelp on the slow-burning “Seizure” and the hot-trotting “She’s So.” Hunters isn’t a perfect album, reliant as it is on Almeida’s chirpy, slurry tendencies to bring the joys, but it’s a nice start. .
“I can be the sun / I can be the ocean,” Brooklyn duo Hunters yowl with reckless abandon on the aptly titled “Narcissist”. Whether meant to be tongue-in-cheek or a sincere declaration of youthful vanity is immaterial, as whatever the perception gleaned, it launches the band’s eponymous debut album with gusto. An opening buzzsaw rumble lumbers along forebodingly before charging out of the gate without relent.
In the last decade, the couple band dynamic has become synonymous with twee, sugar-sweet indie rock, like every song is cooed from partner to partner over the phone between "No, you hang up"s. Hunters' core duo, Izzy Almeida and Derek Watson, recall a much more badass version of indie rock coupledom - less Matt & Kim, more Kim & Thurston - and they know it, wearing it in classic punk spikes (him) and a glorious mop of neon pink hair (her). The couple trade shouts onstage and on record, their melodic but snarling, sweet yet aggressive dual yelp a constant mid-song conversation.
Hunters' Izzy Almeida and Derek Watson formed their band in part because they both loved grunge and proto-punk acts like Sonic Youth and the Stooges, and those influences ring out loud and clear (or should that be heavy and murky?) on their self-titled debut. While Watson's vocals often have a Kurt Cobain-like bray to them -- particularly on "Street Trash," where he and Almeida prove it's possible to shout in harmony -- Hunters don't ape Nirvana so much as Cobain's record collection: hints of the Melvins' sludge collide with singsongy boy-girl vocals reminiscent of the Vaselines. But while Watson and Almeida know all their favorites' tricks, they don't always do anything unique with them.
Much of the press accompanying the self-titled debut of Brooklyn duo Hunters describes their live show with some variation of “wild” or “unpredictable.” Which is great for context, but if you don’t live in New York, and only have access to the actual album, it starts to feel like a preemptive apology. During the many times I found my attention wavering during the duration of Hunters, I tried to imagine what those shows might look like, without consulting YouTube or Google Image Search to spoil the surprise. I picture Derek Watson with a dark, matted haircut, dressed entirely in denim and leather with some flannel, snarled upper lip but also a bit playful and laconic.
Notoriously ferocious live acts face many pitfalls when it comes time for a debut album. Attempting to recreate that energy through a pair of headphones or a laptop speaker can lead to overdoing the chaos. Others attempt to dabble in more nuanced territory, and often it’s immediately clear that this isn’t familiar ground. Brooklyn’s Hunters admirably face that challenge with their self-titled debut, bouncing between dense post-punk and harmonic grunge to keep the energy fresh, without losing track of their identity.