In the music video for Hoops’ “On Top,” Drew Auscherman and his band act as musical guests on a tape recording of a town’s local PBS self-help and outreach television program. There’s an invitation to join a book club, a few local inventions are highlighted, and Hoops appear to be closing out the show with a performance. Near the halfway mark, the show’s lights and sound guy spills his chili dog on the command station, and all hell breaks loose.
The song is about taking what you’re given and persevering, and the sight of Auscherman and company singing “Don’t think twice when it all goes wrong/Put in your time you’ll come out on top,” as stage lights go in and out around them leads you to believe that perhaps this song is happening spontaneously. Now, a group of white boys telling you that everything is going to be okay seems to be an endlessly renewable resource in independent music, but here’s the thing: you can really dance to “On Top.”
Routines, the first LP from Hoops, sees Auscherman’s semi-solo project shed the cassette-quality recordings of earlier EPs and trade it in for a more homespun, dreamy guitar-pop sound that isn’t too far removed from the best the 80s and 90s had to offer.
There’s a Johnny Marr homage in the aggressive but twinkling guitar line in “Rules”; the Cocteau Twins-like, artificial synth drums on the intro to “Benjals,” and even the vocal drone of Liam Gallagher circa Morning Glory in the song “On Letting Go.” Revivalism notwithstanding, the craftsmanship is undeniable throughout the record, and it’s in these genuinely exciting moments where you can imagine shy kids thrusting hips in their bedrooms along to the record. Though Auscherman isn’t always the most involved lyricist, his melodic instincts connect the gap between intent and outcome. He has an alien-yet-captivating way of phrasing lines.
The melodramatic croon in “All My Life”—“Keep dragging me along/And it feels like I’m wasting/All my life”—reminds me of Morrissey’s best awkward moments where the lyrical idea isn’t quite finished in the verse and has to continue into the chorus. But you could also observe that Morrissey had the gumption to rhyme “rusty spanner” with “play piano,” and sometimes that kind of spirit gets substituted for Hoops’ use of vocal reverb.
The cavernous quality of the singing imbues the relatively simplistic lyrics with profundity, but you might wonder how much more is going on behind the curtain. There’s an audible gasp that comes with suggesting Routines sounds like a chillwave record, but it is reminiscent of the way that that micro-genre tends to get lost in shallow depths. However, a wading pool can often be a perfect meditative space.
A place where you can immerse yourself, disappear from the rest of the world, but still be close to land. Routines is an introspective record, and it’s a reminder that it can be a deceptively joyous affair to retreat to a lonely bedroom or garage. Hoops gives a voice and sound to that feeling, and in the process, the band is able to capture a lot of what is exhilarating about underground music’s current fixation with classic pop.
Nicholas Ruggieri is a community writer for Wolf Pack Radio as well as a class of 2018 French and English double major at the University of Nevada, Reno.