The Hipocrats — Road to Joy
Serendipity strikes when you least expect it.
After collaborating on “Caravan,” Seattle singer-songwriters Sarah Brunner and Tyler McGinnis felt the spark and inspiration to set off on their own as the Hipocrats, record an EP and hit the road together. What resulted was 2022’s Road to Joy, six songs encapsulating the hardships and rewards involved with making difficult choices in order to find happiness.
When the duo started writing together in the fall of 2021, magic happened, and by the New Year they had the songs for their album. Now they just needed an album title.
They found their muse in Montana. While staying with friends in the small town of Boulder – 30 minutes from Helena – they met a waitress named Joy, who opened up to them, sharing how much appreciation she had for the beauty surrounding her. She shared her demons, her struggles, but also shared her philosophies. She brought herself to tears during that conversation, and it left a powerful impression on the troubadours, who decided to dedicate their album to her. The album was released on June 10.
Road to Joy kicks off with “Annie,” one of its many contagious, upbeat melodies brought home by the haunting harmonies of Brunner and McGinnis and the tasteful, gorgeous fiddle of Ruth Navarre. The arrangements really add to the enjoyment here, as well, especially the acapella breakdown near the end.
And the road just gets better from here. “Mann Simmadown” has an ambitious and fun moodswing from verse to chorus. The weeks are long and tough. Anxiety can override it all, and the verses capture the feeling brilliantly. The calming chorus is Beatlesy in its harmonies and, once again, Navarre’s fiddle is so soothing it helps you forget the earlier fast-paced, stressful lyrical charade. Drummer TJ Watson does an excellent job here keeping the tune steady and not letting the crazy moments get out of control. He does a fine job underplaying and complimenting each tune throughout the EP.
“Wildflower Boulevard” comes next, which starts smooth and melancholic, and leads to a chorus that captures something most all of us can identify with at one point or another in our lives while seeking our own road to joy. Chris DeFalco shines here on bass, and Brunner and McGinnis prove their voices can meld no matter the tempo or turmoil. The gentle baritone of McGinnis and Brunner’s angelic alto belong together.
“Cuffing Season,” a song driven by a catchy picking progression (both Brunner and McGinnis played and soul-stirring oohs. The song sets the scene with imagery but it’s the harmonies that put you there, along with the fiddle. When Brunner and McGinnis sing “These are the nights I always want to forget/I don’t want to be alone now/These are the nights I always seem to regret” you believe them. It resonates, and also at one point is slightly reminiscent of The Smashing Pumpkins. Listen for it.
From here the road takes the listener to a surprisingly upbeat break-up song, which is refreshing. It’s self-realized, honest, blunt and playful. DeFalco has a lot of fun on the bass here, and the overdubbed harmonies are a nice touch. As the song gets more playful, it also gets more soulful. McGinnis especially goes all out with his vocal performance. His vocals (and the arrangement) build beautifully.
The last track, “Reflections(I Wish I Was)” is the perfect way to close out the album. It’s a hopeful, open-ended track that sums up the struggles we all go through. There are many examples, such as “everybody has bad runs of luck/hit the lock with your keys in your truck/your card got declined and the next guy in line had to pay,” that remind us finding joy is more a mindset than a destination.
“Everybody in their own way is looking to the future, wanting the best, wanting happiness,” McGinnis told me. “This is the story that we are doing the best we can. Everyone has their own obstacles, and, if our music can touch that idea and have someone reconsider what is most important to them then at the end of the day we’re doing our job.”
As the Hipocrats (which means “unapologetically oneself”) sing, “pull yourself together.”
Highlights: “Cuffing Season,” “Reflections (I Wish I Was)”
Road to Joy is now streaming on all streaming platforms. For more info on the Hipocrats, or to purchase their EP, go to https://thehipocrats-epk.com/