English synthpop duo Hurts smashed into the mainstream in 2010 with their debut album, Happiness, reaching the top ten in several European countries. Exile is a satisfyingly epic sophomore effort.
Nearly every song on Exile sounds massive, due in no small measure to Theo Hutchcraft’s vocal similarity to Muse’s Matt Bellamy. However, true to the band’s name, Hurts are a much darker beast, though no less catchy. For instance, on the opening track, “Miracle,” Hurts declare, “If you look in my heart you will find no love, no light, no end in sight.” “The Road” goes from frail vocals and quiet accompaniment to loud drums and an atmosphere more suited toward industrial rock than electro. Likewise, the misleadingly named “Cupid” is driven by heavy guitar riffs, featuring lyrics like, “I swear that I’ll make you bleed if you break my heart when I hold you close to me.”
Not all of Exile goes to dark places though. The upbeat, catchy “Blind” features falsetto that makes it sound interchangeable with beloved British “man band” Take That. “Somebody to Die For” is quite the ballad, but the lyrics don’t quite have the strength of the swelling music.
As far as follow-ups go, Hurts have demonstrated that they have a finger on the pulse of the European pop scene. Hopefully their next effort will have better lyrical content to match the impressive instrumentals they manage between their two members.