Freak Heat Waves 
Mondo Tempo 

Mood Hut • 2023

Freak Heat Waves’ Mondo Tempo is spaced-out, slightly confused, and highly engaging music flirting with pop but leaving it on read.

I imagine that an AI music-making equivalent to ChatGPT (which already exists) would be hard-pressed to handle a prompt like “Write a song in the style of Freak Heat Waves,” let alone generate a whole album’s worth of music. For over a decade now, Freak Heat Waves has been creating an eclectic and electric combination of post-punk, techno, dub, and ambient elements that feels decidedly anti-algorithmic and difficult to pin down. Look up their catalogue on Apple Music, and you’ll find each album has been assigned a different genre tag: 2015’s Bonnie’s State of Mind is stamped ‘metal’; 2018’s Beyond XXXL is called ‘rock’; Zap the Planet from 2020 gets labelled ‘electronic.’ Their latest release, Mondo Tempo, garners the band (now down to a duo of Steven Lind and Thomas Di Ninno) the ambiguous descriptor ‘indie pop,’ which does nothing to inform the uninitiated on what to expect when they hit play.

Freak Heat Waves is a vibe that can’t easily be pinned down, and Mondo Tempo is their watershed moment. As the album’s name implies, it feels as if Lind and Di Ninno are taking our world’s emotional pulse and temperature and translating that into spaced-out, slightly confused, and highly engaging music flirting with pop but leaving it on read. Naming their opening track “The Time Has Come,” it’s hard not to imagine they are feeling the moment, too. It’s a fresh, funky, and solid intro, if not something of a false start, given that it’s immediately followed by contender for Song of Summer 2023, “In a Moment Divine.” It is a perfect marriage of song title and music. Chill, somewhat hushed synth pads glisten and shimmer and a stellar vocal turn by the incomparable Cindy Lee (aka Pat Flegel) is icing on an already deliciously decadent treat. 

It’s not all sunny ways and slick beats on Mondo Tempo, but Freak Heat Waves manage to get the right balance between optimistic-sounding arrangements and the spare, dark, brooding — and mostly indecipherable — lyrics. As suggested by the spoken word sample on “Altered States,” too many words present a barrier to reaching a transcendent subconscious release from the waking world. “How Do We Come Alive,” “Endless,” and “Music Has an Interesting Power” all cross that bridge multiple times thanks to Lind’s often deadpan serious delivery of doom and gloom imagery. 

The closing title track’s discourse on global warming and its effects does little to brighten the mood, but like much of Mondo Tempo, the intention isn’t to lecture but to imply and suggest. Ultimately, the meaning is there for you to read or reject. Freak Heat Waves are equally content with making you feel or think, making you mull things over as much as making you move your ass.

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“It's got a little ring to it”