Born and raised in New South Whales, brothers and besties The Rubens have been winning Australia over with their bluesy rock ‘n’ roll and soulful balladry since day dot, their latest album Hoops seeing off the Menangle boys into new, unknown territories.
With a debut record charting the ARIAS at number three in its’ opening week and fathering two Hottest 100 hits, The Rubens were in for a challenging second take in the studio, running almost immediately in after their first self-titled LP was released. Again calling upon producer David Kahn – the man who flew the then timid boys over to New York to work the 2012 release – The Rubens were ready to knuckle down in the studio with over 40 songs prepped to jam, and an unwavering sense of purpose to get it done right. Some cuts here, some tweaks there, and plenty of beers later, the band are now ready to reveal album number two Hoops!
Hitting their fans with a couple of love ballads they do so well, The Rubens nail those big-sounding choruses that pound at your heart and force your fists to clench and punch the sky (think ‘The Day You Went Away’ opener, times eleven!), continuing their short but successful catalogue of modern Aussie-rock hits. All in all the album is soulful, with a high-energy positivity that certainly triumphs over many of the “lost-love” lyrics, making for a bittersweet serve up of formidable beats and swooning melodies.
The opening track, however, is one of the album’s lead singles ‘Hallelujah’, and appears to put a strange Americana style country road-trip twist on an otherwise stand-out track; coming across more closely reminiscent of ‘Life Is A Highway’ than it was probably intended to be. In saying that, it’s obviously a crowd pleaser, holding every element of a radio-friendly pop-rock song under its wing, with undoubtedly catchy hooks, soaring group vocals, and a pounding kick drum that I dare you to try and stop yourself head-bopping to. But of course, the real gold is found later in the album.
After an unsteady start, Hoops certainly evolves into an album that extends The Rubens’ musical scope, taking inspiration from hip-hop, RnB, and old blues, to set the band apart as frontrunners in the indie-rock realm. The title-track ‘Hoops’ is an instantly catchy, slow RnB jam with some sweet harmonies and many a break beats to set an eerily quiet a cappella stage for frontman Sam Margin to show off his soulful, reverberating lower vocal scale. The latecomer track, added well into the final mixing stages of production, along with taking the reins as the album’s namesake and cover art’s symbol (for which we have the multi-talented Margin to thank) also acts as a perfect embodiment of the album as a whole; a feel good track that translates just as well through the headphones, as it would to from the front to back rows at an intimate gig or massive festival.
The Rubens have not only created an album that captures the essence of high-energy live performances, but one that explores avenues across soul, RnB, indie-pop, and rock, upping the ante to showcase the vast range they hold within their own rock realm.
Hoops is out now via Ivy League Records.