Today’s Song: HAWK’s Activism Goes Anthemic in “Can’t Explain”

HAWK © James Byrne
“Can’t Explain” brings together HAWK’s activism and social consciousness and pairs it with their knack for penning anthemic tunes.

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Rock at its core is often powered by social critique. In one way or another, despite the content of many of the songs that pass as “today’s top alt-rock” hits, some of the best songs we have in the genre are born from discontent with the times.

And that discontent is exactly what’s powering Berlin-based band HAWK. Comprised of Julie Hawk (vocals, bass), Matthew Harris (guitar), and Sam Campbell (drums), the trio keeps social awareness at the core of the music they create, especially in their new single “Can’t Explain,” (released 11/17/17 via Veta Records).

Released just after their single “Below,” (a reflection on how Hawk, an Irish woman, feels “betrayed” by her government’s treatment of women in the past and in the present), “Can’t Explain” doesn’t hold back from social critique, either. With its slamming blast on the power the privileged have to silence others in western society, HAWK makes their frustrations known in classic rock n’ roll fashion in a song that deserves to be blared.

Listen: “Can’t Explain” – HAWK


Vocalist and guitarist Julie Hawk dives right in, not even allowing a second’s pause as she begins the first line. Her soaring vocals pair well with the heavy guitar backing her, setting “Can’t Explain” up for its anthemic chorus by before the first bar even ends.

When you ask me to rest and abandon my pride,
How can I just relax with a thorn in my side?
HAWK - Can't Explain

HAWK – Can’t Explain

HAWK’s social critique here is powerful in its palatability. The band manages to effectively channel their activism into well-written lyrics and, in turn, pair those lyrics with just the right amount of crushing good-old-fashioned-rock-n-roll. “Can’t Explain”’s power is in its ability to critique the ills in the world it creates, and to sound pretty sweet while doing such. Especially as the song hits the chorus.

I can’t explain
When you celebrate
I can’t explain
When you just erase

In these lines, Hawk’s vocals reach new heights and show us just what she’s capable of: raging against the system and hitting every note in the process. Despite its simplicity, it’s one of those choruses that’s sure to get stuck in your head for days: a deceptive riff that’ll keep you humming and thus subtly joining in HAWK’s social critique whenever you sing along.

You take the time to question
The source of your protection
The fight you see with your eyes
It must be peaceful in a world
Where you walk without fear
I wanted to be just like you
I wanted to be just like you.

The social awareness that bleeds fittingly into “Can’t Explain” and “Below” appropriately goes beyond just the medium of music. Julie Hawk’s recently-created project, Female Fronted Drawn Together, features a curated playlist of female-fronted bands and artwork to accompany each song. Highlighting the fact that women musicians are often ignored or forgotten, Hawk’s steps to give them the spotlight pair well with her own work in HAWK: giving a voice to those people and issues that are often shunted aside.

“Can’t Explain” brings together everything that HAWK stands for with their knack for penning anthemic tunes.

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:: Stream/Download “Can’t Explain” here ::

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HAWK - Can't Explain

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photo © James Byrne

Lindsay is the Assistant Music Director at Atwood Magazine. A graduate of Westmont College, she works as a social media manager in the Los Angeles area and is a sometimes-regular contributor at Whilst Magazine. You can typically find her quoting “Napoleon Dynamite,” praying for rain, drinking way too much tea while reading Lester Bangs, singing the praises of intersectional feminism, or reading any book, ever.