Album Review: NEEDTOBREATHE’s “H A R D L O V E”

This Grammy award-nominated quartet’s sixth studio album H A R D L O V E is out today (July 15th) via Atlantic Records and both critic and fans alike are loving it as it is already #1 in the U.S. iTunes album charts as of 2:20AM ET.

[A little reminder: since we have already covered the songs “MONEY & FAME”, “HAPPINESS”, and “NO EXCUSES”, they will not be covered anymore in this article. However, you can check out our first article on NEEDTOBREATHE where we reviewed the three songs mentioned above. Just go here.]

NEEDTOBREATHE has seen their fair share of ups and downs in the music industry, but their latest record has put them on the pedestal in a way that none of their previous work can ever do. In short, H A R D L O V E is probably their best album so far.

Their blockbuster 2014 album Rivers In the Wasteland landed the band their first-ever Grammy Award nomination, topped Billboard’s Top Rock Albums and Top Alternative Albums charts, and earned their highest-charting single yet with the RIAA Gold-Certified Top 10 hit Brother (feat. Gavin DeGraw). But when it came time to record its follow-up, the Charleston, South Carolina-based band decided to completely alter their creative approach and break into entirely new sonic terrain.

Building off the impassioned, anthemic alt-rock dynamic that’s come to define the band, brothers Bear Rinehart (vocals, guitar) and Bo Rinehart (guitar, vocals), bassist/vocalist Seth Bolt, and keyboardist/vocalist Josh Lovelace brought their sixth studio album H A R D L O V E to life by delving into the world of electronic effects and instrumentation. The result: a sublimely crafted and expansive sound that still reflects the larger-than-life intensity of NEEDTOBREATHE’s unforgettable live show.

With its lavish arrangements and sweeping melodies, H A R D L O V E radiates an unbridled energy that’s got much to do with the pure joy that powered the making of the album. “Working with synth for the first time, there was a sense of wonder that was almost mystical”, says Bo. It was like when we first picked up our guitars and every chord we were striking had this huge impact on us. Adds Bear: “The unfamiliarity led us to rely totally on feeling, and we all felt inspired in a whole new way.”

Along with dreaming up that vital new sound, NEEDTOBREATHE instilled each of the songs on H A R D L O V E with a resolutely hopeful spirit. “We were in a dark place when we made the last record, but to me this album is mostly a story of redemption”, says Bear. “Most bands would’ve broken up ten times by now if they’d gone through what we went through, but I think it made us stronger than ever.”
(information source: Atlantic Records and Wilful Publicity)



“MOUNTAIN Pt 1” is the first track on H A R D L O V E. It is different from all of the other tracks in the record due to its shortness (only 56 seconds long) and soulfulness. Strangely enough, it has that gospel vibe in it that is evident in some other songs in the album. It is unlike anything that the band has ever done and it sets the mood for the entire record perfectly.


The albums title track is exhilarating and embodies the album’s theme of redemption through perseverance. It delivers a strong message that if you want to be a part of something great, something that will benefit a lot of people, you should never give up. You should just keep pushing and take whatever hardships that the world throws at you in order to achieve your goal. “If there’s a greater good that you want to be a part of, you’re gonna have to suffer some punches in order to get there, and the song Hard Love is partly about recognizing that,” says Bo.


WHEN I SING is that kind of song that can be used as a gospel or praise song or as a love song. It’s very interesting how the wording of the lyrics melt into each other to add a certain feel to the song and make it a track that is full of praise and love.

GREAT NIGHT (feat. Shovels & Rope)

On ‘Great Night’ the band keeps up that triumphant mood and joins Charleston-based folk duo Shovels & Rope in delivering a bold and bluesy party anthem. It’s not as gospel-y as some of the other tracks. Instead it has rock ‘n’ roll undertones to it that makes you want to dance all around, no matter where you are. It is recommended to listen to this during a normal night so that it will turn into a “great night”.


The eight track on the album is a bit of a slow rock song. It’s not a complete 180 from the previous track but rather a 90 because it still has that rock undertones but in a mellowed out version to emphasize the lyrics and the message of the song. It tells a story of the hardships in love and how some relationships just don’t last no matter how much effort the couple involve put into it. It’s a bit sad. It’s also a little bit of a detour from the triumphant mood that the album has.


This track sees the return of the lively mood but not the triumphant one. At this point it seems like the album has lost its gospel vibe. However, this does not make this track less stellar than the previous ones. This is by far our favourite track since the intro of the song is a mix of country and rock. This mix is continued throughout the song but not that thoroughly. The music itself is very empowering and the lyrics are “badass”, to say the least. Listen to this song once and you will find yourself singing “don’t bring that trouble with you” over and over again throughout the day.


Now, this is a mellow song. Switching gears, ‘LET’S STAY HOME TONIGHT’ unfolds as a tender tribute to the simple pleasure of hiding away from the world with the one you love. It’s a very relaxing and toned down song, very different from the previous track but still amazing in its own little way. It’s a simple song to listen to when you feel like you just want to have a quiet day or night at home.


The powerfully charged ‘TESTIFY’ offers an intimate meditation on restored faith. It brings back the gospel vibe that we have come to love in a mellowed down tone with bits of country undertones. This track also brings back a toned down triumphant vibe due to the fact that it’s about restoring one’s faith. In all honesty, this song pulled a certain heart string within us. Maybe it’s the message of the song or maybe it’s just its calming vibe. [Give me your heart, give me your song, sing it with all your might. Come to the fountain and you could be satisfied.]


The album ends with a slow and toned down track. It’s similar to how a fireworks show: starts off with a bang, ends with a sizzle. In ‘CLEAR’ NEEDTOBREATHE closes out H A R D L O V E with a seven-minute-long epic shot through with ethereal harmonies and cascading guitar work. “When I first wrote ‘CLEAR’, it felt almost like a wedding song, but it ended up becoming something deeper than that,” says Bo. “Instead of some fairy-tale, dreamlike thing, it’s more about the focus and clarity of realizing what’s most important to you in the world.” The dash of country vibe is quite evident in this track but it just makes it really relaxing. It is somewhat of a perfect end to the album despite the difference of its tone and energy from the first few tracks.

Overall thoughts

The transition that happened throughout the album is slow and gradual which is amazing. The vibe of the whole album changed from lively and triumphant to slow, thankful, and mellow. This keeps everything interesting and not boring because some albums tend to become repetitive when it comes to the songs in them.

All in all NEEDTOBREATHE did a really great job in this album. There are some things that could be improved on like some of the lyrics and the radio friendly beat which could be found in some songs. Other tracks, however, really stood out to us and will probably be played over and over.

Throughout their journey as a band, NEEDTOBREATHE have strived to create music that’s part of an ongoing, all-encompassing conversation on life and love; an ambition that’s even inspired details like the stylization of their new album title. “There’s something very tough and bold about the concept of H A R D L O V E, “it’s about full-on commitment, and it’s a statement that we want to sing proudly and loudly”, explains Bo. “When people listen to our records, it’s like being invited into their home, and we take that very seriously”, adds Bear. “We want to make the kind of record that impacts people’s lives, the way they love and work and dream and live. We hold that in our mind when we’re writing, and we keep on refining everything until we feel like it’s in a place that absolutely deserves to be a part of that conversation.”

Buy H A R D L O V E on iTunes:

For the full list of tour dates in NEEDTOBREATHE’s tour, check out their website:

We absolutely love H A R D L O V E! How about you? Tell us what you think in the comments below or tweet us @CelebMix!

Written by CelebMix