I started listening to Hot Water Music because of a boy.

He loved HWM, I liked him, so as any geeked-out girl with a crush would do, I loved the band too.

I'll admit that because of this, my interest wasn't purely about the music in the beginning. But as I delved deeper into the HWM catalog, examining records like A Flight and a Crash and Forever and Counting, I began to develop my own honest admiration for the band.

HWM makes heavy, dynamic rock with the fearless attitude of an aggressive post-hardcore band. Every song is an anthem bursting with conviction and energy. And even though co-vocalists Chuck Ragan and Chris Woolard sing like they're totally battled and beat down by life, there's still a captivating and optimistic attitude that lives in their songs.

Since first being introduced, I've seen HWM play numerous times, and with every show, the band showcases a powerful, energetic, and incredibly tight set that demands the attention of everyone in the room.

When they played Graceland with Thrice and Coheed and Cambria (yuck), touring right after the release of their 2002 record Caution, the crowd was a bubbling frenzy, and the band looked like they were having the time of their lives on that stage. Per usual, they played a great mixture of old and new material. Every moment was amazing.

With their new Epitaph release, The New What Next, HWM take a step back from the more pop feel that Caution had, with the end result having a less polished and more turbulent sound. The album doesn't feel as urgent as some of the tracks on A Flight and a Crash, but it still stands up. They've grown up; their statements are strong, but they've learned they don't have to scream to be heard.

Of course, as most stories like this go, the boy who started this whole thing is long gone. But my affair with Hot Water Music stays strong, and I certainly won't complain about that.

"I'll get back on my feet/wash my hands clean and roll/back to the front to sing out, 'Here we go!'" MEGAN SELING

megan@thestranger.com

Need more? You can hear my personal picks for the week on 107.7 The End every Monday and Friday at 8:30 a.m. during DJ No Name's The Morning Alternative.

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