HeartPunch is primarily the songs (apart from one cover, “My Baby’s Gone”) of one man, Yankton Sothern, whose original intention was to produce an album of solo singer-songwriter material. However, with some advice, guidance and musical involvement from his producer (and some others), the decision was taken to record and release the songs as a band. On the face of it, this seems to have been a wise decision as, reading through the bio, each song is given a bit of background and it would appear that a number of them deal with lost love, broken relationships, etc., which in a solo setting could become a bit maudlin. However, with a band backing Sothern, the results are something beyond what he might have originally expected and/or wanted.
Across the album there is a mixture of sounds within the songs, predominantly a sort of new wave/rock/blues concoction that actually works quite well. If finding oneself singing the songs at odd times is any positive reflection on a record, then this one works well in that area. I have found myself singing a handful of tracks, wondering which record they came from and then realising that it’s the HeartPunch album.
With a voice that reminds me occasionally of Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, Yankton Sothern manages to create a suite of songs full of warmth despite the heartache that many appear to contain. Add to this a deep keyboard/organ sound that brings to mind the Jayhawks, the overall feel is one of being embraced by these songs. The new wave element to some of the songs could easily be moved into a John Hughes teen movie from the 1980s—you could imagine John Cusack or Andrew McCarthy moping around after a girl to a HeartPunch soundtrack in the background.
This is one of those albums where nothing really stands out above everything else, but a few tracks are worthy of note, including the opener “Forget Me”, “Fucked Up Over You” and “I’m Not Ready”, these being the most memorable to me. Whilst some of the lyrics verge on being over-sentimental, they’re saved by the music, which adds enough to overcome any shortcomings elsewhere. There is no doubt that Sothern is writing from personal experience and his experiences seem to be numerous, but he’s not sitting on his backside letting himself drown in his sorrows; he’s got it together enough to channel his feelings in a constructive way.
I challenge anyone to listen to “Relief” and not immediately think of an INXS track (not sure which one, though) as the guitar ‘riff’ throughout causes me to think that every time I hear it. As bad as that might sound, it is quite a good song and should not be dismissed by that one (negative) reference.
The album concludes with “Being Baptist”, which is apparently a collection of random lines put together in a single setting. This is the most "solo" effort on the album and is a good song to finish on.
Overall, this is an honest and respectable album, not one that is likely to shoot HeartPunch to a world of limos and stadium gigs, but more something that will deliver Yankton Sothern’s work to the world in a way that allows feelings to be exorcised whilst providing a musical accompaniment for listeners to enjoy as I did. He should be happy with the end product.