“Can someone out there in America tell me what’s wrong?” That question, delivered on “America”, acts as a sort of thesis for Generic Treasure, the debut album from Joe Steinhardt, AKA Modern Hut. The album title itself does pretty well to that end, as well, Steinhardt aware that his intensely introspective lyrics and hard-luck emotionality make his music special, but that everyone’s special. So, it’s no surprise then, when no answer comes back to him when he asks for someone to tell him what’s wrong. He’s holding a double-sided mirror, examining his own flaws as the audience wonders what’s wrong themselves.
Sometimes it seems like Steinhardt is an amateur existentialist philosopher who just happened to find a guitar. The densely literate phrases tumble out of Steinhardt’s mouth by the bucketful, the minimal acoustic guitar and homespun melodies often seemingly acting as an excuse for another few buckets. And these aren’t buckets of sunshine. “Sometimes I, I just think that I was born without a taste for life,” he sighs on “Just Pray”, a prime example of the overwhelmed frustration expressed throughout.
The songs that make minor alterations to the instrumentation keep that maudlin mentality from wallowing. The addition of vocals from Screaming Females frontwoman Marissa Paternoster on “Life” turns a seemingly depressed chorus into something of an anthem. “I’m not proud of the things that I’ve done in this life/ but that’s alright because I will die,” they call and respond, both failure and death somehow okay. The end of life means that failure will end, so why worry about it now?
And that comfort is something that Generic Treasure offers in spades. “And it’s kind of like you always said/ things are worse up in my head,” he agrees on closer “Moving On”. He’s a thinker, an over-thinker, and that process plays out without a filter, his head cracked open for inspection. It’s always a good reminder that everyone wonders what’s wrong with them, especially when its done so honestly, plainly, and engagingly as this.
Essential Tracks: “America”, “Life”, and “Moving On”