HTRK’s Rhinestones eschews the ominous synths and electronics that have characterized previous albums like 2014’s Psychic 9 – 5 Club and 2011’s Work (Work, Work), but the duo’s latest is still just as shadowy. Inspired by “eerie and gothic country music,” Rhinestones finds Jonnine Standish (vocals) and Nigel Yang (instruments) venturing into singer/songwriter territory, albeit with their own haunting spin.
On “Reverse Déjà vu,” one of the first singles from Rhinestones, Standish’s forlorn voice is set against sparse acoustic guitars, minimal programming, and nocturnal atmospherics. “In my mind it was a different time/With a different point of view/And I find I recognize this feeling, so untrue,” Standish sings, before wondering “How can I bury you.”
Given the band’s tragic history, it’s hard not to see such lyrics as a reflection on former bandmate Sean Stewart, who committed suicide in 2010. But those sorrowful words also hit hard in light of the last year-and-a-half, during which so many have needlessly lost friends and loved ones to COVID.
Rhinestones is now available via Ghostly International.