There’s this feeling you get when you have an intense crush. Your heart keeps pounding, ricocheting off your ribs for no reason. Randomly, buying milk at the grocery store or riding the bus, you notice a full-on flock of butterflies trying to escape from your stomach. Without realizing, you find yourself humming the sappiest AM radio hits every morning in the shower. Strangers at the coffee shop comment on the fact that you’re grinning like an idiot. Everything seems so goddamned gorgeous. There are very few things that replicate that sense of total serotonin-charged exhilaration. Being perfectly drunk doesn’t quite cut it. The only thing that comes even close is a particular kind of note-perfect, hook-drenched music.
You know what I’m talking about – imagine Berry Gordy coaching the Marvelettes through Please Mr. Postman, or Diana Ross and her Supremes booty-bumping prismatic harmonies in Baby, Where Did Our Love Go? Think about Sleater-Kinney’s exuberant call-and-response yelps as they hiccup through the pre-chorus of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. Let your heart crack open as Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke wails about This Modern Love. Forget chocolate – the best pop songs are your sole surefire bet for feeling like you can fall in love again and again and again.
That’s why Hunter Valentine is gonna save us all.
When they first collided, back in the summer of 2004, the Toronto girl-group three-way composed of brazen singer/guitarist Kiyomi McCloskey, manic drummer Laura Petracca and classically trained bassist (and self-proclaimed music geek) Adrienne Lloyd coasted through kicky riffs, basic rhythms and spitfire lyrics with ease. Like any worthwhile lasting crush, it took a couple beats for them to secure a stranglehold around your heart.
Luckily, these girls were committed. They started busting their asses, scheduling rehearsals more often than most folks do the dishes. They played show after show, cementing their reputation as a stellar live band. Chemistry kicked in. Their songs got better and better.
Just over a year later, Hunter Valentine was specially invited to play the prestigious North By Northeast festival and the Halifax Pop Explosion. Word got out. Canadian rock god Ian Blurton tracked them down and came on board to produce a self-titled demo EP. They shared stages with synth-pop stars Dragonette and UK garage-rock breakouts the Duke Spirit. By the summer of 2006, barely two years after they first formed, Hunter Valentine was ready for the world to fall in love with them.
That’s when hearts really started getting ignited. Tenacious to begin with, McCloskey, Petracca and Lloyd decided they were willing to sacrifice pretty much everything to devote themselves entirely to making the best, most beautiful album they could. They quit their jobs and gave up their apartments, cruised down the I-90 to a remote part of Connecticut, where they spent several months helping bohemian kids realize their true potential at an arty summer camp (translation: they played music 24 hours a day, till their guitar- and bass-playing hands developed calluses upon calluses and overworked muscles spasmed out drum fills in their sleep). They got really, really good.
By the time the season changed, Hunter Valentine had signed on with High Romance Music, a new imprint of True North Records.
Armed with a battalion of garage-rock anthems for heartbreakers and the brokenhearted, they recruited producer Julius Butty, best known for helping hone the razor-sharp edge on albums by Canuck screamo heroes Alexisonfire and the more contemplative City and Colour, and headed to the studio to create what would become their rock-solid, spectacular debut LP, The Impatient Romantic. Hunter Valentine’s shimmering, serrated guitar riffs and galloping beats echoed off the quiet streets of rural Stoney Creek, Ontario. They synchronized handclaps over whiskey in backwater bars. They managed to capture every rapture, every rejection, every moment of redemption, every hapless last-call bar pickup, every lonely walk home on a freezing snowy night, every story of a great love gone off the rails… all of it on tape.
The Impatient Romantic will knock you flat on your ass. From the spleen-rattling bass lines and sing along chorus of Typical to the hiccupping tempo of Break This, from the shimmering intro to Rotting Love Guts to the lip-curled kiss-off of Jimmy Dean, from the down-on-my-knees pleas of Van City to the sombre piano chords and hazy fogged-window sighs of album-closer Judy – it’s the triumphant crush you’ve been waiting for since you were an awkward dreamer in high school, waiting to fall in love in the locker hallway. Need context? You can hear echoes of sneering, scratched-melody punks and rock ’n’ roll super-heroines like Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith and Linda Perry. You can hear the unabashed heart-on-my-sleeve harmonies of the Pernice Brothers and the Raveonettes alongside the stargazing romanticism of Canadian indie rock torchbearers like Stars and the Arcade Fire. You can hear the meticulous low-end of classic Motown and the girl gang attitude of the Shangri-Las.
Prepare yourself for Hunter Valentine: a love like this doesn’t happen every day.