Love is a common ground for musicians to dig into, but The Regrettes aren’t just devoting one or two songs on How Do You Love to the subject—rather, their entire sophomore album covers every aspect of love, chronologically detailing every moment from the first feeling of butterflies in the stomach to to the slow-decline and cracked-heart breakup.
In a truly romantic spirit, the Los Angeles-based punk band’s debut album opens not with a song, but with a poem, “Are You In Love Intro.” It’s cute, but even with the soft hum underneath, it doesn’t have the Patti Smith-esque impact the band might have hoped for. Though it’s quickly followed by “California Friends,” a sunny smile of a tune which more than makes up for the slow start. Frontwoman Lydia Night’s voice maintains a low, raw growl, and backing vocals from guitarist Genessa Gariano and bassist Brooke Dickson give the sense of friends cheering on this budding romance from the sidelines.
“I Dare You” is the standout, a rock ‘n’ roll take on the ‘60s girl group sound (complete with hand claps at the bridge). It covers every niche piece of falling in love—the sleepless nights, the initial resistance to this wonderful feeling, the warm blush when you finally give in. “Coloring Book” follows this same train with a simple and, at times, subdued guitar, letting Night’s vocals carry the tune. “I want to walk along the beach / Cheesy as it sounds / Because there’s something kinda special about walkin’ around,” she sings. It’s easy for a love song to go for the broad strokes, but Night is going to celebrate the minutiae of wanting to spend every second with someone instead.
Looking at the album as a three-act play, How Do You Love starts to sag in the middle, both in terms of the relationship being depicted and the music itself. Songs like “Stop and Go” and “Dead Wrong,” aren’t strong enough on their own to stand out coming off of the slow haunt of first-act closer “Pumpkin.” Night calls out Romeo and Juliet and The Notebook in search of something deeper than just a cute nickname, adding, “I’m also just cool doing nothing with you.” But the muffled instrumentals from the rest of the band give a sense of foreboding throughout “Stop and Go.” The narrator recognizes that the balances of romantic power aren’t even, a thread she continues on through “Dress Up,” as the couple fights. Night screams “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” until she’s hoarse, something that’s just shy of triggering for anyone who’s been in a relationship with someone who doesn’t fight fair.
Guitars and feelings are raw as Night snarls, “I’ve always pulled the weight for two,” on “Has It Hit You.” Has it only been just over a month in music-time, as “More Than a Month” suggests? The relationship is over before it really began. She’s gone from sharing her beloved’s playlists to relaying a sadness that even, as she recognizes, “Joni Mitchell and Patsy Cline can’t fix,” And by the time “How Do You Love” enters the fray with hard-and-fast guitars and speed-style drumming, our narrator is frustrated, but brave and unbroken.
The album is musically consistent, occasionally bordering on repetitive. Too many of the songs—four to be precise—open the same exact way, with just Night and one other band member playing before expanding into the full band. It’s recognizable by the second, a cliché by the third time and almost grating by the fourth. The Regrettes have identified a sound that works for them—a raw, Riot Grrl-lite that lets Night’s vocals carrying a lot of the musical weight—but so many of the songs sound too much alike, failing to assert themselves as a breakout single, a lonesome ballad, a dance party jam, etc. It’s all well-constructed, but it’s just easy to forget once it’s turned off.
Despite a few musical shortcomings, How Do You Love is an ambitious project for 18-year-old Night, and one she largely succeeds on. It’s a surprisingly deep understanding of the complexities and contradictions of relationships without ever falling into the clichés of depicting a young romance while those feelings are still extremely present.