There’s a line in the synopsis of HIDEOUT's sophomore release, So Many Hoops/So Little Time, that strikes a chord, both melancholic and poetic: “Emotionally charged, he turned to the art of songwriting & storytelling to help navigate through the many answerless questions.” Answerless questions. It’s irony masquerading as an oxymoron, truth with a troubling twist, because, unfortunately, that's something we all face. For Gabriel Rodriguez—the man behind the moniker—this grappling with the unknown was triggered by the loss of his brother, which in turn, led him back to HIDEOUT as an outlet for his grief. It’s a reflection on sorrow and its subsequent stages, which glistens with hopeful pop-rock arrangements.
The heartbeat of So Many Hoops/So Little Time is the single, "I Got Your Message," which says it all when it comes to the song’s inspiration. Speaking to Billboard, Rodriguez deemed this track the “focal point while writing the rest of the songs,” perhaps because it pivots back to that moment when a single message sent a ripple effect throughout his life. With Scarlett Conolly lending her voice, "I Got Your Message" opens with a feminine pitch that then overlaps and counters Rodriguez’s lower timbre. “I don’t believe it / I must be dreaming / 'Cause I got your message / I heard the beep beep,” the lyrics repeat, as zany guitar strums streak across the airwaves, before revving into more earnest, fervent territory for the song’s final thirty seconds.
“Doctor" follows, with rueful lyrics coated in a buoyant beat, as the guitar twists and coils in '60s-inspired riffs. Steady drums set the pace as Rodriguez implores, "I've been dead / I can't sleep / I've got guilt / I can't breathe / Give me everything you got." And we can picture the office of that titular doctor, with it's synthetic motif—rubber seat cushions, shrubbery, even latex gloves—as Rodriguez lists physiological ailments in hopes of being handed a prescription. "Are you ready to be someone else now? / Are you ready to give up?” Rodriguez sings as the song propels forward, a quick interlude of piano keys introducing the lightly delivered realization, “No one can get between you and your suffering.” And still, somehow, the track manages to feel cheery.
Then there’s “Rose Water,” which falls more on the side of a ballad, lightly weaving a little distortion into its otherwise subdued, beautiful introspection. Once again, Rodriguez’s voice is met with Conolly’s softly-delivered murmur, as the guitars evoke shades of Cat Stevens with their meandering arrangement and reverberation. “Well I could’ve been there to catch you / When it all fell down / But I was busy looking for the easy way out,” we hear, and it’s a swell of bittersweet emotion that follows.
In a word, HIDEOUT's latest album is majestic, a snapshot of life through the lens of loss. It’s at times quirky, nostalgic, frenzied—and the list of unrelated adjectives can go on. But perhaps most impressively, it soars, even with the heavy burden of its inspiration.