While the title of Howardian’s fourth LP, The Silly Shit You Say, imparts a whimsical, spontaneous first impression, the record itself feels complete. This isn’t some spur-of-the-moment side project from Ian Vanek (Japanther), it’s the real deal.
Overall I’d say the influence of this record is 1980s new wave mixed with new millennium DIY punk and a dose of lo-fi. Keyboards really drive the songs, but it’s the basic song structures with potent melodies that hook the listener as Vanek’s baritone delivery is both relatable and heartening. “Still Here” may be the best example, with its first-person plural perspective on meeting and overcoming challenges. While you can hear the authenticity, it’s not some heart-on-his-sleeve frontman flailing under a spotlight; it’s the modest guy in the corner. It’s even keel, chill music but it’s also not passive. The record opens with some pointed jabs in the opening lines of “On My Honor.” While I called the song structures simple earlier, the rhythm is anything but, utilizing polyrhythmic melodies through most of the record to give it an extra layer.
There’s really a lot I want to say about this record, but it could easily turn into a song-by-song wrap-up that nobody wants to read. Instead, I’ll aim for the higher points while hitting at the recurring concepts. Take a DIY punk foundation, add a synthesizer and some serious stoner vibes. While it’s chill music, it’s still opinionated and heartfelt. Think of getting angry about life, then taking the time to chill out in your personal space afterward. Some of my favorites on the record are “Still Here,” “On My Honor,” and “Free Waitress.” While there’s an overarching vibe to The Silly Shit You Say, each song has its own unique sound, complemented by that universal Howardian touch.
Editor’s note: In a string of coincidences, Ian Vanek joined the SPB team shortly after I’d requested this promo.
7.5 / 10
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Howardian, the solo project of Japanther's Ian Vanek, has announced a second LP titled A Smurf at Land’s End. The record is out now and is streaming here.
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