Album Review: The Regrettes - 'How Do You Love?'

Exploring the whirlwind of emotions that inevitably come along with falling hard for someone, The Regrettes deliver yet more addictively fun tracks with their sophomore album, asking the age-old question ‘How Do You Love?

2018 was truly the year that saw young LA punk rockers The Regrettes snowball; receiving critical acclaim for their EP Attention Seeker, playing world renowned festivals across the globe, from our own Reading and Leeds to Coachella across the pond, and even managing to squeeze in a tour taking on North America and Europe. With the release of their second album, How Do You Love? The Regrettes show no sign of slowing down.

Image courtesy of Claire Marie Vogel

The band, led by 18 year old frontwoman Lydia Night, have always had a key focus on empowering women. How Do You Love? carries themes and emotions from their previous work and debut album, Feel Your Feelings Fool! This second album however presents the idea that falling in and out of love, feeling a wide spectrum of emotions; whether pretty or ugly is not a weakness. How Do You Love? plays out like any solid indie romantic flick found on Netflix - Night narrates the butterflies of falling for someone new, early complications from both sides, then the turmoil of breaking apart before the narrator finds themselves in an empowering finale.

"How Do You Love? plays out like any solid indie romantic flick found on Netflix."

Are You in Love? introduces us to the album with a striking spoken word poem. Asking the listener themselves whether they are in fact in love, before describing the intense joy and pain that comes with that daunting four letter word. One vast step up from their debut album is the tightness and overarching purpose of their song writing. Are You in Love? succeeds in immediately giving the album focus; we know instantly what we are in for – an exploration into the frustrations of love.

Opening strong with their standout single California Friends, The Regrettes hit the gate running. The track superbly encompasses all the emotions, thrill and excitement of hitting it off with someone new. Despite some reservations hidden within the lyrics, an upbeat tempo and excitable vibe which pours out of the song overshadows any doubts. This perfectly reflects initially falling for someone hard, whereby feelings so often override any logic and red flags are overlooked. Since its release last year, California Friends has been a recurring feature on my personal monthly playlists because, like that feeling of early love itself, it’s simply addictive. Never grating, always fun and bringing up the desire to dance around one's room in a giddy, excitable state.

"Like that feeling of early love itself, it’s simply addictive."

The next track I Dare You continues the same vibes as California Friends presenting a-just-as-upbeat and catchy tune. These two tracks make clear early on that one of the themes and lessons behind this album is that despite better judgement, it’s okay to take risks and follow your feelings when it comes to love. The lyrics “You’re gonna fall but I’ll catch you” and “Go on and jump in, I dare you” feel like they are directed at oneself rather than another. After all, it is known as 'falling' in love and risks must be taken; no one slowly eases themselves into a great romance. It’s also reflective of the overall message behind not only the album but The Regrettes as a band - it’s more than okay to make mistakes because you will always be around to pick yourself back up.

Coloring Book slows the pace down as far as you could expect from The Regrettes, feeling notably rawer and more stripped back than the majority of their repertoire. Night’s voice is given a chance to shine, as she explores the frustrations of struggling to understand how another is feeling towards her. As expected, before long the track builds up to the smashing of guitars and drums that are the bread and butter of The Regrettes.

With How Do You Love? being an ambitious fourteen track album, not including the spoken word poem introduction, it would be a miracle if not one song fell short of the others. For me, the fourth track, Fog is that song. As arguably the most forgettable song on the album, it can’t help but feel half-hearted, failing to build up to anything worth of note. Despite blending in nicely with the album, that may be its very problem, it feels like a transition track over a stand-alone piece of art. There are no new, ground-breaking ideas which are not explored more successfully and with a greater level of sophistication among the other tracks. Fog is not helped by the fact that it’s followed up by the stand out Pumpkin, an already instantly recognisable track as one of The Regrettes' released singles. Perhaps this track would have shone as a shorter interlude piece, or even favoured being cut completely, as it feels like fat on an already meaty album.

"Despite blending in nicely with the album, that may be [Fog's] very problem."

Pumpkin goes against the grain of many Regrettes numbers, with an air of nostalgia to its melody and musical construction. Never is the band’s wide range of musical inspirations more evident. Referencing stories and films such as Romeo and Juliet, The Notebook and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the lyrics can’t help but feel self-aware with the album itself presenting its own love story. Pumpkin explores the feelings of falling in love for the first time, feeling sweet and innocent but still never naïve. The Regrettes demonstrate here that they can pull off smooth and romantic equally as well as sharp and sassy. Despite being one of the softer songs on the record, Pumpkin packs a punch; being tight, dynamic and thus extremely enjoyable to listen to.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that Pumpkin is the most overly romantic and soppy track on How Do You Love? as the turning point in the relationship from a storyline standpoint arrives at the following track Stop and Go. Night shares a letter apologising for making a mistake with “That decision,” forming the first cracks in the relationship. Opening with a jaunty acoustic guitar melody and Night’s vocals, the first thirty seconds of the song stand out - hearing the drums and other guitars kick in almost compromises the stripped-back vibe of the beginning of the tune.

One thing which the album generally lacks is variety in its songs, falling into the trap of some blurring together. It would have been a welcome change to be treated to a sweet acoustic number, exhibiting the band’s versatility, which from snippets of other tracks is definitely there.

Image courtesy of The Regrettes

Dress Up follows on in a way which champions over Stop and Go, exploring similar feelings, situations and emotions but in a more complex and sincere way. Begging for forgiveness, knowing full well that what the narrator did was in the wrong and perhaps realistically signalling the time to move on. From here on in the album further explores the emotions of accepting that feelings within a newly formed relationship change, and sometimes from only one side. Rather than the typical, ‘I’m heartbroken because the boy I liked chose the other girl over me’ sob story song which we have all become accustomed to, Night takes the opposite approach; presenting a narrator who herself has started to feel disconnected. Dead Wrong deals with the frustrating and confusing emotions tied with the realisation that someone may not be the perfect being you believed, but still not being prepared to let go. In a similar fashion to Fog, Dead Wrong falls flat, not providing anything new or exciting to the mix – getting lost in the cluster of ‘I’m not sure this relationship is going to work out’ songs.

Instantly More than a Month picks things straight back up again, with Night revealing her fierce vocals with energetic backing from the band. The track deals with the all too relatable upset and frustration of realising that you were way more invested and into someone than they were you. It taps into the emotions that come along with the breakdown of a new relationship, not heartbreak, but irritation.

Go Love You and Here You Go both deal with a romance turned bitter and sour. Go Love You is a fun track filled with empowering one-liners and a chanty chorus that will for sure go down a treat live. Again, Here You Go provides much of the same; same message, same chirpy beat. This far into the album, I can’t help but notice the repetition of many songs – none of them bad, but all much of the same. It’s worth asking the question whether the album could and should have been cut down into a shorter, tighter listen. Many of the songs land on extremely similar, if not the same, emotional beats.

Night has gone on record explaining that inspiration for this album was drawn from several different relationships, romantic, platonic and familial. Although from track to track the album blends together well, upon closer listen and analysis of the lyrics, inconsistencies begin to crop up. Perhaps How Do You Love? is not intended to be received as the story of one romantic relationship. However, from the introduction, and through the first handful of songs this definitely feels like the case. Towards the end of the record, inconsistencies with the story become distracting. Who ended it with who? Are you regretful or don’t you care? When presented as an album, any contradictions become glaringly obvious. Perhaps partly for this reason, the last few tracks The Game, Has It Hit You? and the title track How Do You Love? fail to end the album on the strong note it began. Despite interesting lyrics and strong vocals, the fire in the album withers away by its closing tracks.

"Many of the songs land on extremely similar, if not the same, emotional beats."

It’s disappointing that The Regrettes’ Brett Kavanaugh-inspired hit Poor Boy did not make an appearance on the album, or at least something of equal punch and ferocity. This is a shame as the messages behind the handful of final few songs are of importance, particularly to younger listeners - it’s okay to have regrets and learn from mistakes.

How Do You Love? is a solid sophomore album from The Regrettes. Despite trailing a little at the end and being in danger of falling flat, there are enough gems sprinkled throughout to keep the listener. Night presents a relatable and realistic depiction of the complete maze and battlefield that is the dating world. Infatuation, uncertainty and heartbreak are all explored in a blend of pop, rock and punk and, while nothing ground breaking, the exuberance from the LA four piece is consistently infectious fun.