by David Chiu
We’re just a quarter of the way into 2019, but indie rock trio Ex Hex’s sophomore effort It’s Real already has my vote for one of this year’s best album. Musically, it’s a continuation of the metallic and melodic ’70s glam punk sound/’80s pop metal sound that characterized their outstanding 2014 debut Rips. There’s not a clunker in the bunch: they include “Rainbow Shiner” is akin to pre-Pyromania-era Def Leppard; the meaty “Tough Enough” is a throwback to the Runaways highlighted by Mary Timony’s killer guitar riffs. It’s Real also shows the group branching stylistically such as ’60s girl group pop (“No Reflection”); New Wave (the Blondie-like “Radiate” and Cars-influenced “Good Times”); New York punk (“Cosmic Cave,” which echoes the Ramones); and even the Boss (the anthemic “Medley, which has a crazy distorted guitar bit in the middle). While retro-sounding, Ex Hex is not a tribute band; the songs feel also contemporary and original, too. It’s Real proves once again that Timony is an indie rock guitar hero, while bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris keep the rhythm and the beats punchy and tough. Sexy and exhilarating, It’s Real doesn’t suffer the dreaded sophomore jinx—instead, Ex Hex shoots off more fireworks with a rocking, hook-filled winner.