Intense, Dreamy, & Nostalgic: House of Harm’s ‘Playground’ Is a Dramatic Post-Punk Fun House

House of Harm © Eric Bones
House of Harm © Eric Bones
Boston post-punk trio House of Harm dive into the dreamy, all-consuming depths of their soul-stirring sophomore album ‘Playground’ – an achingly emotive, ethereal, and intense fever dream built on raw passion and drenched in reverb.
for fans of The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths
Stream: “Roseglass” – House of Harm




Be forewarned: This ain’t your mother’s playground.

At least, not in any traditional or classic sense. If you’re a fan of ’80s post-punk, shoegaze, and dream-pop, then House of Harm’s sophomore album most certainly is the fun house for you. Dramatic, dynamic, and (tastefully) drenched in reverb, Playground is an all-consuming seduction of the senses: An achingly emotive, ethereal, and intense fever dream that glistens with brooding, warm waves of soul-stirring sound.

Prepare for an immersive full-body experience – one that will move the mind, body, and soul.

Playground - House of Harm
Playground – House of Harm
Run with the thrill
If you leave the past behind
Unsaid, unfulfilled but you
still won’t care this time

With everyone, we go along with anything I say
You walked off the lead
just as the words slipped away
Divide up the broken glass the bed you’ve laid
Stop because you can’t afford
Even with my last-ditch drive to kill
Divide up the broken glass the bed you’ve laid
Stop because you can’t afford
Even with my last-ditch drive to kill

Released December 1, 2023 via Maison du Mal, Playground is as bold and breathtaking as it is kinetic, cathartic, and moody: The follow-up to 2020’s debut album Vicious Pastimes sees the Boston-based trio of Michael Rocheford, Cooper Leardi, and Tyler Kershaw crafting an enchanting, atmospheric world of wonder that feels at once cinematic and insular – their music is larger-than-life in some respects, and yet their songwriting is undeniably intimate, up-close and personal.

House of Harm © Eric Bones
House of Harm © Eric Bones



For House of Harm, this album came as much out of passion as it did necessity. “We released our debut record in the middle of 2020, which left us unable to tour the record properly. To keep busy, we immediately started writing songs for what was to become the Playground record,” frontman Michael Rocheford tells Atwood Magazine. “We became completely immersed in the record and were able to fully realize our new sound without distraction or deadlines.”

“I suppose the record was slowly realized as our demos rolled in. We wrote more than 100 songs and developed the sound palette as we went along. We knew from the beginning we wanted to expand our sound, so we decided to write songs around an acoustic drum kit instead of strictly using drum machines as we did in the past.”

Playground definitely shines new light on who we are songwriters, and I think it’s more of a snapshot in time, as opposed to a ‘greatest hits of the formative years,’ which most debuts would be considered.”

We can throw the day
I never lost control
But I had to say “It’s tomorrow”
You can sort it out, the mess you left for me
And the last note was to follow

Two lives locked away
Just consider what you’ve known
And I lost the way, time’s borrowed
Two kinds filled with doubt and left for all to see
And the last note found it’s way
You were never here at all

Say it back tonight I think you need it more
You’re hoping now that it can be restored
I lost hope inside, and if we close that door
I’m praying the past just feeds
the grip until it tightens more




Rocheford describes the new album as intense, dreamy, and nostalgic.

As he explains, the title Playground, while not taken from a song or lyric on the record, nevertheless captures the spirit of these ten songs. “For some reason it describes this batch of songs perfectly,” he says. “It was presented as an option early in the writing process and was instantly and unanimously agreed upon.”

Highlights abound on the glistening, gauzy journey from the irresistibly impassioned opener “Before the Line” to shimmering finale “Place It Back” – and while Playground is best listened to in one sitting from end-to-end, songs like “Two Kinds,” “Roseglass,” “To Glass,” “Endlessly,” and “The Face of Grace” stand out as moments of catchy and cathartic reverie.

“Personally, ‘Two Kinds’ might be my favorite song I’ve written,” Rocheford says of the sparkling, punchy groove – one that expands the band’s palette (with the help of some vibrant acoustic guitars), while staying true to their artistic identity.

As a songwriter, the vocalist says the lyrics on “Before the Line” are “probably my favorite that I’ve written.” “Before the Line,” which sets the scene for all that’s to come both lyrically and sonically, finds House of Harm bridging the gap between their first and second records with a dramatic, eruptive awakening:

From the start it felt so slow
A spinning track, then back ‘round it goes
It’s only nine
You never find what’s real, so let’s make believe
If nothing bites you’re wrong
Waking kills the null
A sleepless rest
You’re only pressed until you
find what it has to be

Devise the crime your best
Make it stop under the dress
Speeding time with every line
before the day breaks over me…
A grip so pressing…
I have to know where the line stops
and where you go

With a grip so pressing
I have to know where the line stops
and where you go
House of Harm © Eric Bones
House of Harm © Eric Bones



Sure, it may not be your “typical” playground, but there’s tons of fun to be had within these ten dreamy songs.

“I hope [listeners] can experience Playground in ways that are personal to them,” Rocheford shares. “I usually shy away from revealing too much of what the songs are really about, because I feel like it’s not as important as what they could mean to someone else. I’d hate to taint their perspective. Once released into the world, these songs no longer belong to us.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside House of Harm’s Playground with Atwood Magazine as lead singer Michael Rocheford goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their sophomore album!

Catch the band bringing the house down for their “East Coast Record Release Show” at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right on February 22 – find tickets and more information at seetickets.us!

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:: stream/purchase Playground here ::
:: connect with House of Harm here ::
Stream: ‘Playground’ – House of Harm



:: Inside Playground ::

Playground - House of Harm

— —

Before The Line

We had at least half the record done when we wrote this one, and all the songs up to that point were sounding like a big jump from our previous LP. We wanted to make something that might bridge the gap between the two records, and this is what we came up with. We knew we had our opening track right away. The song just got more and more intense every time we worked on it. A lot of the lyrical content here gets touched on throughout the record as well.



To Last

“To Last” is a love song that was actually written as a gift to someone who comes in and out of my life. Have you ever locked arms with someone and spun around in circles? I wanted to capture what that’s like in song form, and the instrumental seemed a perfect fit.

Roseglass

Ironically, we wrote “Roseglass” immediately after writing “To Last.” We booked a writing session in a rural part of Massachusetts and finished the first night with this one. Typically, I’ll sing a scratch vocal a few times over and try a few different melodies to see what sits best, then refine it as the song progresses. “Roseglass” is an exception, as you’re hearing the same chorus lyrics and melody as my first take.



The Face of Grace

We wanted to have a song in a different time signature on the record, so “The Face Of Grace” started as an exercise of that. I think we initially intended for it not to have drums as well, but we couldn’t help ourselves from emphasizing the 6/8. Still though, I think we covered new territory with how intimate it feels at the start.

Soaked In Pastel

“Soaked” is fairly light-hearted compared to the rest of the songs, which might be way it stands out to me. It’s also the first song on Playground that we played live, debuting back in 2022. It features very strange instrument that Cooper and I made by adding octave strings to a bass which was lying around our apartment at the time. When we started recording for real, we tried to recreate the sound with higher quality instruments, but in the end nothing sounded as good as the “yamahatrocity,” as Tyler dubbed it.

Two Kinds

“Two Kinds” is a first for us as it’s predominately acoustic guitar. We wanted to expand our sound palette, but needed to maintain the energy throughout. It was particularly rewarding for us to showcase “Two Kinds” in this light. The more you strip away from a song, the less there is to hide behind. This vulnerability added a new dynamic that we fully embraced, and definitely informed the lyrical content.



Endlessly

I like the idea of pairing upbeat music with lyrics that are really dark, so that’s what’s going on lyrically. We spent some time layering a lot of different synth melodies over a simple drum machine loop until the point where it was almost noise. Then took about the same amount of time subtracting and subtracting until we had “Endlessly.” It was a different way of writing for us that felt dangerous in a way. Building an entire mansion just to burn it down so we could see what the kitchen should look like.

Ignore The Taste

If Playground has a wildcard, this is it. None of us thought it would actually make the record when we were writing it, that it would be doomed to file away in our “to be continued” folder like so many others. That night it just so happened the “let’s take a silly one” track ended up feeling like it just belonged in the sequence somehow. Whether we admit it or not, this song ended up laying the groundwork for the rest of the album. If “Roseglass” and “To Last” were the ones that made us say, “Ok, we know where we’re going,” “Ignore the Taste” showed us what kind of mischief we could get into once we got there.

Moving On

“Moving On” was actually an old demo of mine from about 10 years ago. The record needed a more downbeat song for the pacing to feel right, so this was an obvious choice as it’s probably the slowest song I’ve ever made.

Place it Back

Place It Back was one of the earliest tracks we demoed for the record. Most of the tracks probably have 20+ versions, but I don’t remember having to labor over this one too much. It came together quickly, and stayed on deck. I notice a lot of album closers tend to be the most dramatic on the record, but we wanted something short and sweet to close out Playground. Something to leave people wanting more.

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:: stream/purchase Playground here ::
:: connect with House of Harm here ::



— — — —

Playground - House of Harm

Connect to House of Harm on
Facebook, seetickets.us, TikTok, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © Eric Bones

:: Stream House of Harm ::



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