Hospital Bracelet: South Loop Summer (Counter Intuitive) - review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, March 6th, 2021  

Hospital Bracelet

South Loop Summer

Counter Intuitive

Jan 14, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Hospital Bracelet was first introduced to the world with a short and simple acoustic record dropped with little fanfare into the Bandcamp ecosphere in 2019. That record, Neutrality Acoustic, was quickly passed around in online DIY circles, amassing a dedicated following and turning singer/guitarist Eric Christopher into a rising star in the Chicago emo scene. Now, freshly signed to emo favorite label Counter Intuitive Records and following some unfortunate COVID delays, the band’s true debut, South Loop Summer, is finally here. 

Unsurprisingly, South Loop Summer shares a lot of DNA with its predecessor, Neutrality Acoustic. The record once again puts an unrelenting focus on Eric Christopher’s diaristic songwriting, boisterous energy, and soul-baring performances. But while Neutrality Acoustic was carried by pure emotive power and unpolished DIY charm, South Loop Summer builds upon that core with tighter riffs and better performances across the board. 

This is how the band’s music was meant to sound; riffy, blistering, mosh pit ready emo. Nowhere is that more apparent than the two re-recorded tracks, “Happy Birthday” and “Sour OG RPG.” “Happy Birthday” especially is reinvented, now built around a killer central riff, electrifying pop punk tempo set by drummer Manae Hammond, and a sludgy climactic outro. Meanwhile, “Sour OG RPG” gets punched up to a nervy dynamic high. The DND centric lyrics are somewhat hamfisted, but Christopher’s frantic ending mantra of “I hope I roll a 20” is irresistible pure fun and the song does break up the record’s heavy subject matter well.

The expanded sonic possibilities also free up the band to branch out and expand its sound over the record’s all too short length. “South Loop Summer” flips the summer anthem formula, delivering a ripping pop punk opener about barely paying rent, missing friends, and making bad decisions. Meanwhile, “Feral Rat Anthem” sees the band play with twinkling emo riffs matched with a few heavy blasts of suitably feral energy. The full-band setup and higher fidelity recording also add some needed punch to the ballads, such as the new crashes of distortion, thick bass additions from Arya Woody, and crisp percussion on “Sober Haha Jk...Unless.”  

Giving voice to the lost, bitter, and dejected certainly isn’t anything new for emo. Even so, there is a special quality to the writing on South Loop Summer, owing to how fundamentally it is imbued with Christopher’s experience. There is a palpable venom and brutal honesty to tracks such as “Feral Rat Anthem” and “Sheetz vs. Wawa,” which sees Christopher excoriate their abusers and manipulators. It’d be almost voyeuristic if it weren’t so deeply relatable. Hearing Christopher snarl “And you can go and rot in hell/I really hope you learn and never forgive yourself” has a striking reclaimative power. For better or worse, Christopher lays themself open on the record with no pretension or expectation. They bring their every inward thought into harsh daylight and let them stand on their own. The raw authenticity of doing so makes the record all the more resonant and powerful.  

The record comes to a close on a meditative note, as Christopher sings about the toxic friendships of “Summer Friends.” At the end of South Loop Summer, there’s no finality, no answers to all the heartbreak, addiction, and trauma Christopher presents. In some respects, the closure they sing about on “Sober...” feels as far away as ever. Yet, the band also creates an undeniably freeing sense of catharsis. For all the guilt, inward battles, and vulnerable moments, Christopher comes out the other side intact, having put their best set of songs yet to music and secured Hospital Bracelet's place as one of the most exciting new voices in emo. (www.counterintuitiverecords.com/artists/hospital-bracelet)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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