Now a part of the Nashville singer/songwriter circle, Dax moved from an Indiana town to peddle a hooky pop craft with a rock edge. Or hook-laden rock with a pop edge. Whatever, Beating Hearts and False Alarms is ten tracks of earnest, if not the most memorable lyrics, pretty acoustic riffs and the sort of infecting pop sentiment sugarcoating a rock foundation that’s very reminiscent of Lifehouse—remember them?
The album, which the artist is offering as a free download, starts off with “A Flawed Design.” This is how he describes his heart, a description which simultaneously can provoke an “aw, that’s pretty” and an “oh, please.” More interesting are the vocals, which are strangled and bookish and slightly alien, layering over the first of many pleasing acoustic riffs.
The uplifting rock jaunt “Alchemy” follows, introducing the ’90s/early ’00s pop rock similarities before “Happy Holidays.” Usually when a singer/songwriter whips out a Christmas song, I skip past the track like you step around crap on the sidewalk. But Dax can handle this better than some—though it was a little precious (there’s talk of an ’80s-themed party and buying a ring), it’s attached to a sticky tune.
More infectious acoustic guitar follows in the shape of melodies that exemplify how acoustic translates to pop (“Run and Hide”) and accompanied by duskier vocals (“Radio Mind”). Not to say that the record is all acoustic. There’s a slippery electric melody in “The Darkest Hour,” whose tone matches the lyrical sadness.
If Dax’s album sticks with you, it will be for well-crafted pop hooks rather than anything particularly striking in lyrical style and content. For the most part, I enjoyed Beating Hearts just for one-time pop nostalgia. But damn if it isn’t catchy.