Album: Half Past Two – Talk Is Killing Me

Half Past Two last put out an album in late 2021- since then they have released a 4 track cover song EP, 4 additional cover song singles, another half dozen original singles- several involving collaborations with other artists, and now, another full 12 song album. I assumed I had a pretty good grasp on what to expect for this new album since the band had been putting out a pretty consistent stream of music over the last 3 years- however, lead singer Tara Hahn did guest vocals on a track on the Omnigone album in 2023 that was a one of my favorite tracks on a really good ska-core album. In return, the final Half Past Two single before the album was announced featured Adam from Omnigone and there was also a cover of Suicide Machine’s “Capsule”- and this turn towards ska-core felt like a pretty big departure from their more traditional ska-pop tracks that had been the hallmark of the Orange County veterans for the last 15 years. The album releasing on Bad Time Records was a bit of a surprise since they don’t tend to have many bands with a pop- type sound, feature more on the experimental or ska-coresends of the genre, however, working with Reade Wolcotte, Omnigone, and Eichlers- all of which have released on BTR- made it seem less out of place.

When I listened to the album, I found myself very pleasantly surprised. The album felt both different from everything they did before, but also, still familiar. This album is definitely less pop sounding, and more punk and even rock influenced. The lyrics are a little more personal and at times a little darker than previous music. It feels more like an exploration of unresolved emotions. The entire album does a great job with pacing and every song has its own feel and influences. There are definite pop hooks that are true pop, not pop ska. The vocals on this album are outstanding, definitely my favorite HP2 songs to date.

From the first song, “Barrier to Entry”, I was hooked. It feels powerful. There are many times on this album where it feels like they embraced a philosophy of less is more, and it allows every part of the band to shine. Whether it is pacing changes, more bridges, being willing to take out a guitar or remove unnecessary clutter, everything feels great. While “Barrier to Entry” has some of my favorite lines, “Dominoes” is one of my favorite tracks and feels like it was perfectly produced. But that leads directly to “In My Head” which feels like an amazingly perfect radio pop song- ala Carly Rae Jepson.

The way the album slides from one sound to another so perfectly makes me smile every time I play the album. Every time I try to list my favorite songs, I get stuck listing half the album. “Curse the Universe” is a great song and has some of my favorite horn lines and ska riffs, plus great vocals, and “I Don’t Dream Anymore” is a perfect way to slow the album down right in the middle and hits some nice reggae rhythms. The slow pacing of that track juxtaposes nicely against the title track “Talk Is Killing Me”, which feels more rock, with really interesting synth and keyboards that break up the verses. 

A few tracks later we get “Our Playlist” as a beautiful and sad acoustic duet with Scott Klopfenstein- a song that feels nothing like the rest of the album, yet simultaneously perfectly fits the themes of the album and because of the diversity of sounds on the album it fits in perfectly- especially as it fades out and picks up into what I think is my favorite track in the punk as fuck “Never Saw Me”. This is probably my favorite Half Past Two track on any album, but also, might not be my favorite track on this album. The album closes with “Out of Time”, another song that has catchy rhythms that drive into your head, and closes the album perfectly with the line “tomorrow’s never promised”- one of the greatest lines to end an album with.

I think one of the things that makes this my favorite Half Past Two release is not that it doesn’t feel like as much ska pop as their older music, but that it doesn’t feel like it is so reliant on just Tara Hahn’s vocals and being catchy- but it feels like every song is complete. This feels like the best music they’ve written and it also happens to feature great vocals. I’ve liked Half Past Two for years, but I thought my tastes were evolving away from their sound. I’m happy to report that their sound evolved along with my tastes.

Written by Gimpleg