Sound: Upon the first listen of "100k", perhaps the band's staple song, you'd think that The Loved Ones are the ideal band to fill the hole Green Day left behind when they made "American Idiot". Bouncing along with the joyous energy of "Dookie", The Loved Ones prove themselves to be more than worthy successors to Green Day's alt-punk throne.
The album opens with something which appears to Dave Hause's speciality; an epically happy "Yeeeeeeeah!" This trend of energetic joy continues through almost all the songs on "Keep Your Heart", reaching it's high points in "Suture Self" and "100k" and relenting only for "Sickening".
Hause employs a fairly standard high-mid-tone guitar sound and typical punk chord sequences here, complimented by heavy bass variations, a refreshing change from what you might expect to hear from similar bands; the bass merely imitating the guitar.
However, drummer Mike Sneeringer is the star of the band. He drums with such energy and impatience, you never really know what he's going to do next. Almost reminiscent of ex-Paramore drummer Zac Farro, Sneeringer is never content with a standard beat. But where Farro often seems to get in the way of Paramore songs by being overly-awkward, Sneeringer never seems to be trying too hard to impress, he appears to just be a naturally excellent drummer.
Overall, The Loved Ones sound is more classic pop-punk (if I dare call it that) than any other post 2003ish band, which makes for a very enjoyable listen. // 9
Lyrics: Dave Hause is clearly an accomplished songwriter, to the point where he has since branched out into writing solo material. Most of the lyrics on "Keep Your Heart" are excellent; simple, yet different. Perhaps the best are to be found in "Please Be Here" an up-tempo love song, "Our shadows dance on the bedroom wall, if only this night could last a little longer..." It is clear that, in keeping with the album's title, Hause's lyrics are straight from the heart as he does not attempt to load his work with clichs, and at times even rhyming is not necessary.
Indeed, referring back to the aforementioned Green Day comparison, Hause is a far more romantically motivated songwriter than Billie Joe Armstrong. This makes for quite an unusual, yet highly effective and impressive alliance between the elements of sound and lyricism. // 8
Overall Impression: At the time of writing this review, this album is roughly 5 years old, a fact I was surprised to discover. The sound is so fresh and energetic it genuinely shocked me that The Loved Ones have not gained more recognition from the punk scene, especially with songs such as album closer "Player Hater Anthem" which, aptly, sounds like a punk classic. The Loved Ones do to extent remind me of early Green Day, but lyrically they are so different it would be unfair to simply label them "the new Green Day".
This is a very impressive debut from a band which certainly deserves more recognition than it has thus far received. Big things could lay in wait for The Loved Ones. // 8