Record Review: Hutch Harris - Only Water

April 9th 2018 was a sad day for lovers of indie music: The Thermals called it quits. The three-piece from Portland, Oregon, ended its career after 15 years and seven albums - from the lo-fi milestone debut "More Parts Per Million" (2003) to the fittingly titled "We Disappear" in 2016. Their statement said Hutch Harris (vocals/guitar), Kathy Foster (bass) und Westin Glass (drums) felt "our band has reached far beyond our initial expectations and goals, and are stepping away from it while we still cherish it." That didn't mean that the members stop making music on their own. So for example Kathy Foster released music with three different projects, Roseblood, Slang (with Sleater-Kinney's Janet Weiss) and Hurry Up (featuring Westin Glass).

Now without making much fuss about it, Hutch Harris put out his first solo record - and it's musical consolation for those still mourning the loss of one of the greatest indie rock bands ever to walk this earth. "Only Water" sounds so familiar that you could mistake it for a Thermals record -  if the electric guitars were not sounding much softer and more laid-back than the sometimes crashing and thundering riffs that were a trademark of the popular band. "I'm Ready To Leave" opens the record and it feels like a reflection of the end of the thermals with Hutch singing that he's ready to go without looking back. But the feeling that there are small nods to the past is strengthened by titles like "You Can Believe Me Now" - maybe a successor to the widely appreciated "I Don't Believe You" on "Personal Life" (2010). The songs carry Hutch Harris' signature songwriting and the melodies are great as always. Especially "Anything Is Possible" lingered with me for quite a while with its chorus going "Anything Is Possible But Everything Takes Time." It's significant that songs like this are kept short (only the title track exceeds the 3 minute mark): They stop before it gets repetitive or boring, just like The Thermals (although I don't believe that they would've become boring).

The songs mirror a soft melancholy which can be seen best in the title track: "Alone, alone on the open sea/ alone, only water as far as I see/ I lie awake knowing noone waits for me/ alive, I can see the sun so bright, I can see the sky so clear/ noone is gonna find me." In "We Will Be Alone," an acoustic guitar brings variety to the sound. Vibes I have felt when listening to The Cure or The Weakerthans are ingrained in this record, but first and foremost it is Hutch Harris being Hutch Harris - and you will love the album for that.

"Only Water" by Hutch Harris was released on Nov 12. You can get it via Bandcamp.