When the first track of their new EP started with soothing ocean sounds and clean guitars, it became clear that Save Me Hollywood is taking a step back from all the noise. The band’s growth as a group has made their punk-driven identity drop a couple of notches down in their slow-paced sophomore release ‘Headlights’. Composed of lead singer Julz Savard, guitarists Aaron Corvera and Kenneth Aranza, bassist Carlos Calderon, and drummer JR Jabla, Save Me Hollywood first stormed the Pop Punk scene with their 2013 debut album ‘Your Story to Tell’ which spawned hits like ‘We Are One Tonight’, ‘Reckless’, ‘Happier This Way’ and ‘High’. Now two years and countless tiring shows later, the adrenaline seemed to have waned down as the band’s distinct rebellious and raw sound is replaced with heavier emotion and lighter guitars.
Title track ‘Headlights’ opened the EP with a playful symphony of clean guitars and honest singing from Julz Savard. Recorded and mixed at Campsite Recordings and Tower of Doom, the song’s overall sound comes off as a tad bit lighter than the ones from Your Story to Tell but will still remind the listeners of the same Save Me style of songwriting they were accustomed to – minus the grit and distortion. This pattern would be followed by the album’s carrier single ‘Everybody Wants You’ where the energy picks up with its radio-friendly tune. Very catchy and melodic, it’s safe to say this pop-fueled anthem will be a staple in the band’s live sets from here on out.
It is in ‘Coming Up Roses’ where the group executed a different kind of sound. They experimented with heavenly synths and light guitars while the rhythm section kept things grounded throughout the track. Deeply emotional and very well-written, this love song is Save Me Hollywood’s way of stepping out of their Punk Rock persona. For a minute I thought I was listening to Ang Bandang Shirley and that’s never a bad comparison.
As evident in the past, Save Me Hollywood can be real gutsy and intense in their songwriting and Headlights is no exception. A couple of tracks in the EP start out strong and finish even stronger all while Julz’s voice ringing above all others. ‘Secrets’ and ‘Hold Your Fire’ bring back the softcore riffs, head-banging breakdowns, and the fearless lyrics (“If this means war, it just means you’re asking for more”) that fans all know and love.
The EP finishes with a fitting track to cap off this up-and-down sophomore journey. ‘Slow it Down’ shifts from a moving melancholic start into a post-rock finish worthy of waving lighters from the crowd until all five and a half glorious minutes of it fade to the soothing sounds of the sea once again. Peaceful. Calm. Saved.
The band once warned us in their 2013 song ‘Reckless’ that they’re the “kids your parents told you not to become”. But all those teenage angst, punk-fueled rebellion, and yes, recklessness will have to go at some point and Headlights was Save Me Hollywood’s way of showing they’re all grown up.
Headlights is available in record stores under 12 Stone Records and distributed by Universal Records. It’s also available online for streaming on Spotify, Deezer, and Soundcloud.