The guys in Hidden Hospitals are no strangers to change. The Chicago-based group was the result of members of famed indie/progressive acts Damiera (RIP in math-y heaven) and Kiss Kiss, and while they started out as a fairly understated yet pretty prog rock act, they’ve swerved at every opportunity. Liars, the band’s sophomore release, finds Hidden Hospitals in a weird but wonderful place. Their potent blend of ethereal melodies and mathy rhythmic punch is still intact, but it’s been augmented by a much greater emphasis on electronic undercurrents and cyclical synth lines.
Liars feels like the unexpected center of a Venn diagram of Circa Survive, Mew, and Muse. Swirling songwriting builds with celestial hooks to create songs that instantly grab you, only to latch on harder with each successive listen. While mentions of Muse and synths may conjure up images of an act selling out for the stadium, Liars doesn’t sink to the gutter for greater appeal. Much like how efficient and simple can mean something similar while conveying different meanings, Hidden Hospitals semi-streamlined approach doesn’t bury the interesting layers hidden beneath the more glaring hooks and beats. Songs like the title track and “Typecast” in particular highlight Hidden Hospitals’ keen ability to mine enigmatic and charismatic gold.
Ultimately, Liars is an unexpected and bold new direction for a band who didn’t necessarily need to shake things up to keep it interesting; however, much like how Mutemath were able to add electronic elements without cheapening what made them unique and fun, Hidden Hospitals’ sonic shift has only elevated an already fascinating band into another level. The back half drags ever-so-slightly, but Liars is a punchy and powerful next step into greatness for this Chicago act.