Album Cover
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Hearts of Oak
January 07, 2003


Ted Leo's 2001 release The Tyranny of Distance was more or less uniformly hailed as a pop masterpiece - all the promise of his previous albums had formed into pretty much a perfect album. If you loved The Tyranny of Distance, you'll love Hearts of Oak. Even if you didn't love it, even if you've never heard of this guy, you'll probably love Hearts of Oak, and I'll tell you why: Mr. Leo and his Rx excel at writing intricate yet hummable songs and filling an album with them. It's impossible not to find enjoyment in these songs in one form or another, be it in the skillfully played guitar riffs or the amazing control Leo has over his voice, shifting back and forth from normal to falsetto impressively seamlessly - see "Rude Boys", "High Party", "Dead Voices", "Balgeary", et c. Apart from a few largely overlookable low points - the introduction "Building Skyscrapers in the Basement", and "First to Finish, Last to Start" are sort of unnecessary, and the closer "The Crane Takes Flight" incorporates some whistling and fiddles that could be done without - the album is completely solid, and should stand as one of the best releases of the year. If you don't love at least some of the songs on this album, you have no soul.

Noah Jackson

Track List

  1. Building Skyscrapers in the Basement
  2. Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?
  3. I'm a Ghost
  4. The High Party
  5. Hearts of Oak
  6. The Ballad of the Sin Eater
  7. Dead Voices
  8. The Anointed One
  9. Bridges, Squares
  10. Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead
  11. 2nd Ave., 11 A.M.
  12. First to Finish, Last to Start
  13. The Crane Takes Flight