Critical Voices: Have Mercy, A Place Of Our Own

October 29, 2014

Have Mercy’s second LP, A Place Of Our Own, is a forceful example of emotive rock music and closely follows the band’s debut, The Earth Pushed Back. In spite of all their album’s strengths, however, the Baltimore four-piece fails to push their sound far enough to earn A Place Of Our Own a spot among this year’s standout albums.

A Place Of Our Own plays to all of Have Mercy’s established strengths. Songs craft melodic guitar riffing together with a tremendous vocal performance to tell a sad tale. It’s emo music at its core, but Have Mercy have honed a sharp edge to their music. Every song cuts and jabs the listener, usually culminating in a chilling, loud ending with shouted vocals.

On “Pawn Takes Rook,” for example, the somber beginning grows more and more intense as the guitar and vocals crescendo to a crashing finish. “I’m the pawn and you’re the rook / And you played me like a crook,” closes out the stirring track.

Have Mercy’s tight alt-rock method is a strong reminder of what that vague “indie” label—slapped on every rock band nowadays—should mean in practice. Have Mercy don’t try to be anything other than themselves. They hone in on their own sound, which falls between genres.

Vocal delivery more than makes up for the often corny, awkward lyrics. Lead singer Brian Swindle expertly transitions between soft crooning and intense, howling breakdowns. It’s as though Swindle aimed to finish recording each vocal track with just enough breath in his lungs to remain standing.

But Have Mercy did all the same stuff on their first album in 2013. There’s no development here. Nothing on this sophomore LP pushes Have Mercy’s obvious uniqueness and creativity even further. Despite its hollering clout, A Place Of Our Own fails to make its own place in Have Mercy’s discography.

Voice’s Choices: “Pawn Takes Rook,” “Pete Rose and Babe Ruth

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