Lastletters are a four-piece emotional hardcore band from Bayonne, N.J. From Her To Here is their first self-released EP and showcases seven songs of bleak and angst-ridden, emotive, yet progressive hardcore. Mixed and mastered by Jay Maas of Defeater at Getaway Recordings, the production job is clean and crisp whilst not seeking to ape the traditional emo/hardcore sound. Instead, we get 20 minutes of intense and lacerating post-rock/screamo.
Things begin on "Moment of Separation" with solemn bass chords before the paint-stripping vocals kick in accompanied, then subtle yet haunting strings join the mix in the second verse before sharp guitars and pounding drums join the fray. The first track clocks in at just a shade under two minutes and serves more as an introduction rather than a full song. Where most bands would perhaps opt for a banger to get them out of the starting blocks, Lastletters go for a more restrained approach. This would work better if track two was a little more up-tempo, but instead "Present Passing," while full of bluster and desperately screamed vocals, is a little short and seems to serve as almost a second introduction. The cry of it hurts so much to hold you this way is indicative of where things are at lyrically; intense and personal yet broadly universal.
"Away" is better and finally sees the band kicking things up a notch. The guitars are reminiscent of the post-rock of bands such as Envy, Mono and perhaps even Explosions In The Sky, and the use of soaring harmonic backing vocals serves to accentuate the urgency of the lead vocals. However, at just under three minutes long, the song lacks the depth and gradual development of soundscapes associated with the aforementioned bands. That said, there is enough bombast and bluster that the song doesn't overstay itself welcome whilst remaining taut and focussed.
"The Future Is Fading/The Past Is Still Begging" begins with tight clean guitar chords before the gravel-throated cry of "I put my love in the ground before I ever met my love," which sounds to me not unlike Deftones in their more reflective moments. The Defeater comparison is inescapable when the band screams "No one's going to save us / We are all we have" in its main hook. The song builds into a wall of noise with some intricate guitar leads juxtaposed against the slashing rhythm guitars and crashing of the drums. It all seems to lead back to one word: desperation. I'm left with absolutely no doubts as to their sincerity, as their passion bleeds from my speakers.
The centerpiece of the EP is the seven-minute "Crushing Petals" with its cries of "No one ever comes." The song has an ebb and flow that captures the band's understanding of the dynamics necessary in producing prolonged post-rock pieces, going from loud to super-loud to quiet and introspective before building things back up again. It sounds like there's an e-bow in use on the guitars in the mid-section before the drums and screamed vocals collide, creating a sense of tension and a somewhat epic feel. At the half-way point in the song, there are some gang vocals and what sounds like a sampled loudspeaker voice low in the mix, adding to the creepiness before things kaleidoscopically explode in a cacophony of guitars and drums, not unlike the post-rock/screamo of Envy and perhaps Mesa Verde, the slowly fades out at a cinematic pace. For my money, this is by far the best track on the EP and a side of the band that I'd like to see them further explore.
The slow chiming guitars and strings are back on "Just Outside the Reach," which also includes a panic-stricken telephone call with female vocals, bringing to mind the first Alexisonfire record, and serves as more of an interlude between songs rather than a song in itself (back to the idea of soundscaping). "I Don't Want To Lie Here Anymore" rounds things out and is five minutes of intensity and, yup, that word again, desperation. The guitars are dense, the drums pounding and the vocals are dominant and clear without being overbearing. The "woahs" on the last half of the track bring with them a sense of euphoria before things begin to break down to the most base elements as the five minute track comes to a close.
On the whole, this is an ambitious EP that shows great potential. While things start out somewhat slowly, the two main tracks showcase everything that is great about emotional hardcore/post-rock. While the band may edge perilously close to post-rock cliché at times, there are moments of genuine greatness here. I'd be very much interested in hearing the band push the boundaries a little further but think that, on the strength of this self-released EP, the band could make an amazing full-length. As a snapshot of where the band are at right now, this EP serves its purpose and whets the appetite for what is next to come. Listen here; purchase here.