"I'm not counting on closure," frontman Daniel Basden sings in the opening seconds of I Hope that You Feel Loved, the new EP from Tulsa pop-punk outfit When the Clock Strikes. In context, the line refers to the aftermath of at least one broken-off relationship, but on a broader scale, it represents a prominent theme that recurs throughout the album's short but mighty 17-minute runtime. Growth requires openness.
This is not the band's first time grappling with ideas of change. Its most popular song on Spotify, 2018's "Plate Tectonics," is cresting 1 million streams this month, and that track uses the metaphor of its title to observe relational change through friction. When the Clock Strikes has also grown as a musical project, developing from a duo to a quartet over the past eight years and gaining fans along the way. Though the band's love of nostalgic video games and tried-and-true pop-punk flavors provide a throughline of stability, it doesn't arrest its development.
I Hope that You Feel Loved takes its name from opening track and lead single "Benediction," one of the group's first releases since predominant songwriter Daniel Basden came out as gay. Basden is also a Christian, and the intersection of these identities in a megachurch town like Tulsa naturally comes with its difficulties. "Benediction" is a reflection of some of the resulting interpersonal fallout Basden has experienced, but it uses themes of self-confidence and personal boundaries to empower a positive mindset that keeps him on a mature high road. Like the rainbow ribbon that adorns the EP's dumpster fire computer chip album art, When the Clock Strikes doesn't hide its LGBTQ+ friendliness but it also doesn't fixate on it. While the context of "Benediction" is made fairly evident by the song's bridge, its message is ultimately about the most important of human social needs — acceptance.
With this as the opener, it's hard to not hear the rest of the EP through Basden's queer spiritual lens, but as standalone songs, they don't need it. "Make You Care" is about feeling unloved. "Home Sweet Dumpster Fire" is a pandemic anthem of reassurance. "Moving Boxes" is a brilliant analogy for graduating from one environment to another, choosing what stays and what goes because not everything fits neatly into a box. When "Shoot for the Moon" brings the EP in for a close, it becomes a major stretch to detect anything else that isn't simply the Millennial trend of existential angst due to childhood pressure to achieve special greatness. These are broad, relatable subjects.
The unifying message of I Hope that You Feel Loved is an ode to care, whether of oneself or others. While it could sound overly sappy or angsty in different hands, When the Clock Strikes keeps it fun with riffy, upbeat guitars and harmonized, clean-cut vocals. The band has a history of writing tongue-in-cheek jingles for businesses, and its aesthetic presents as carefree at times. However, there are deeply felt emotions within, and while the EP might not be the closure some might seek for such emotions, When the Clock Strikes provides a space for growth and healing in the meantime. The album isn't simply about love or a gesture of love. It is an offering of love for those open to accept it.