Creeping into everyone’s “Best of 2002 Not Mentioned” list is Troubled Hubble. With their recent release, Penturbia, on Latest Flame Records, the Iowa City quartet resembles Built to Spill and Clem Snide.
The opening track, “Understanding Traffic,” certainly will fit in with radio’s mainstream airplay due to its catchy nature. “Airplanes” is a true testament to indie rock, relying heavily on jamming, eccentric guitar lines, and emotional drum beats. Not forgetting about having that staple pop song, “Nancy” joins the album, making sure that Penturbia will already be known as a well-rounded musical manifestation. The drums manage to stand out in “Migraine,” but they do not take away from the all-together tightness of the band. The song finishes off with what feels like a melodic interlude into “You Stay Here I’ll Go Get Help.” “You Stay Here I’ll Go Get Help” just might put Troubled Hubble somewhere in the ozone where mainstream music exists, even though there is some interesting elevator music at the end. The band’s underlying countrified sound finally makes lyrical sense specifically in “I Love My Canoe.” One of the more mellow and emotional tracks, “Paper/Stone,” works in the hazy, echo-like vocals of Chris Otepka. “Albatross” unites a Ben Folds-esque keyboard intro with Built to Spill’s rockability. Troubled Hubble’s intuition kicks in towards the end of the album, as “What We Do” reinstates the picturesque, jamming music back into the spectrum. The last track, “Work,” is Otepka’s reminder to the listener. “Work as hard as you can. Earn your way. And don’t you ever expect to be appreciated. You are not alone. We all have bad days.”
The lyrical weight is not that heavy, but what Otepka preaches is only what he and Troubled Hubble do best: work their hardest at writing poppy, mid-western rock songs with all their heart poured into them. After all, the bands self-proclaimed love for nature sticks out with songs about love, canoes, and penturbia, which, according to the band, “has in abundance what suburbia lacks — beautiful open space, mostly uncongested rural roads, clean air and water, as well as friendly communities.” Think of Penturbia as an uncongested, harmonic soundtrack to your life.