On their sophomore concept album b? the Houston-duo of HOAX (Michael Raj and Frantz Cesar) journey earnestly through an aural wonderland of radiant indie-pop. But for all its euphoric hooks and uplifting melodics, every song on the album is staged in the aftermath of profound personal tragedy, which serves as the catalyst for the album’s central theme: the difference between being and doing. Ever embodying their self-described “beautiful sound of sadness” that characterizes their music, the album ebbs and flows with soothing vintage pop textures of the 60s and 70s
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“So lovely, cut right through all the ugly feelings faced, cause the way they are ain’t always the way we should be,” they sing on the album’s title track “B?” The grand design of HOAX on the 17-track album is that — by the end of it — you’ve found some measure of peace within yourself to then send out into the world. The first seven songs of b? which begins with the dreamy piano ballad of “Trees,” serve as the album’s rising action.
Songs like “Soju,” a sparse and buoyant electronica track, delve into the bottomless grief that comes with losing someone you love — and the importance of not letting the fear of such pain harden your heart. While the luminescent “Wasting Time” makes the simple but crucial reminder that time really only moves in one direction: — forward — so stop every now and then to really breathe in that truth.
The back half of b? carries some of the band’s most potent tracks: from the strained, guitar-singed “You Get So Alone Sometimes” to the takedown of manufactured curealls for the soul-nauseated masses on lilting strummer “Western Medicine.” Then there’s the riveting synth daydream track “Unamerican Dream,” which sees an immigrant father recollecting at the end of his days the things he did to grasp for the myth of the American dream. Fittingly, b? ends as melancholic and hopeful as it began, ending with the soft lullaby of “Lily’s Dream,” a denouement HOAX hopes stays with you long after you’ve finished listening.
Words by Steven Ward
Listen to b? the new album from HOAX below!