POZ Review: Breathe Carolina - RELOADED

by Zack Zarrillo - Aug 30, 2012

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In a climate where crossover success seems to grow less and less common with each passing year, Breathe Carolina have succeeded where virtually every other “scene” band of their vintage has failed. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise. The Denver duo’s sound — danceable and synth-heavy pop with big hooks and just a hair of rock edge, — was always just a few coats of studio shellac away from dance radio fodder, and as the Top 40 moved to embrace club anthems over the last few years, Breathe Carolina responded by gently amping up their production values to match. Bolstered by platinum-selling single “Blackout”, Hell Is What You Make It proved to be one of 2011’s few dark horse mainstream hits. Capitalizing on that success, Fearless Records has now released an expanded version of the album titled Hell Is What You Make It: RELOADED.

The bonus offerings on RELOADED are minor but noticeable — new album art (a warm Instagram-style shot of a treeline that actually feels like a big upgrade over the original’s cold, clunky space-age eyeball), a reworked version of “Last Night (Vegas)” which replaces the original in the running order, and two versions of new single “Hit And Run”. As well, RELOADEDconcludes with the b-side, “Reaching For The Floor”.

While “Hit And Run”, a bouncy, upbeat tale of a midnight tryst with a memorable vocal hook, makes for a solid-enough club banger, it is the “Wideboys Radio Remix” of the track that really makes for RELOADED’s zenith. The addition of dubstep wobbles might be perfunctory in today’s radio climate, but they do not feel at all superfluous here. If anything the addition of dubstep is key in keeping the energy high between verses. However, the real star is a four-on-the-floor stomp that injects some much-needed life into a track that is a bit of a plodder in its unadulterated form. (All that said, there’s something deeply, if unintentionally, creepy in seeing a party jam titled “Hit And Run” tacked onto the album immediately following “Lauren’s Song”, a track dedicated to a friend of the band who was killed in a, you guessed it, hit and run accident. It is an unfortunate oversight.)

Almost as good is “Reaching For The Floor”, an incontestably catchy blissed-out ode to falling hard and deep with an insistent synth-and-vocal call and response hook in the chorus that virtually screams earworm. While it seems like a bit of a strange call to drop the original recording of “Last Night (Vegas)” — on the digital release at least, why not include both? — the rerecording is clearly superior, with extra digital heft bulked onto the original’s fairly sparse refrains. Ultimately, there is not a whole lot new on Hell Is What You Make It: RELOADED, but the additions, if slight, are all welcomed ones.

★★★.5/★★★★★

by Jesse Richman, edited by Michael Meeze

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