New Jersey rock and rollers Halogens dropped their excellent new EP Time Well Spent last Tuesday. I first became a fan of Halogens thanks to their 2019 Happy Hour EP, which I can only assume they named after my favorite five hour Ryuske Hamaguchi movie of the same name. I was particularly struck by the twangy riff and massive soaring chorus that carried the EP’s hit single “The Backwoods” , a song whose raucous gang vocals were tailor made to get a basement show bumping. I also really enjoyed the band’s 2021 album You’re Being Weird, without a doubt the most emo record in the band’s discography. The album’s lead single “Sit Around” had all of the heft of the band’s previous EP with the anxiety turned all the way up. The cover of the bands’ newest EP features a couple lads pumping weights and crushing beers, and is meant to show that while the Halogens fellas are certainly flexing some new muscle on this EP, this is the same band you know and love.
Where Halogen’s previous work is decidedly pop punk, the three tracks on the Time Well Spent EP feel more indie rock than emo or pop punk, with a couple unique flourishes that reminded me of Connecticut rockers Cheem. EP opener “Never Laugh Again” may have misled you with its emo title and indeed emo enough lyrics, but the track is carried by a bright twangy guitar and has a real pep in its step. The track has an electric breakdown half way through to lead into the soaring second half, though some immaculate bongo playing on the breakdown nearly steals the whole show (more on that in a moment). Each of these tracks features some kind of experimentation or mix up in the second half of the track that makes the EP feel like more than three songs, Halogens sounds like they’re having fun and making things as funky as possible on this one. “Something Sweet” starts a bit more somber, sounding at first like it could have fit in fine on You’re Being Weird. Then a minute in a massive riff comes outta nowhere and the song explodes in a completely different direction. The track rips to a close, elevating the previously quiet intro into a massive bang, before slowing things down back to where we started right at the very end. The EP’s closing track “Time Well Spent” has the back and forth of a rigorous debate. Things start off with lead singer Zach Henry singing about climbing mountains once he gets the strength, before he descends into languid despair about whether or not all of this is a waste of time. Then, with a quiet trumpet leading them in, Zach changes his tune for the better, belting “I do not have much to say, but I do not have much left to lose, so I’ll try it” over and over till he and you both are convinced. It is the kind of close that really leaves a mark and is the kind of refrain I can already see becoming a staple of the band’s live sets.
The band said online that the tape was a testament to growing older as a unit and finding ways to make every second that we have together on this earth count. They also shared that there was indeed a special surprise guest jamming away on the bongos on the opener “Never Laugh Again”. After his grandfather passed, Halogens drummer George Carvajal-Saives started helping out and hanging out with his Grandma quite regularly, which helped them both deal with the loss of his grandfather. She had long joked that she was going to surprise Halogens on stage with some bongos and steal the show, and George figured it was about time to make Grandma Diane keep her promise. George’s partner had an idea to set up a mobile recording rig in his Grandma’s assisted living facility to track her playing bongos on a Halogens song. They got the recording on his grandma’s 84th birthday, where she showed off her rockstar grandson to all her friends. And you know what, that’s just what this thing we call life is all about man. If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye then I don’t know what to tell you. Talk about making every second on earth count! Reading that quite literally made me pick up the phone and give my grandma a call to see how she was doing and figure out when I would be seeing her next. I won’t be mentioning this story to her honestly, just on the rare chance she gets pissed that her grandson isn’t a rockstar. However, I will be spinning this EP for months to come and will be giving an emphatic “HELL YEA GRANDMA DIANE” every time her bongos come crashing in.