Hearts of Oak (album)

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This article is about the album by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. For other uses, see Hearts of Oak (disambiguation).
Hearts of Oak
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak cover.jpg
Studio album by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Released February 11, 2003
Recorded September 2002
Genre Rock, punk rock, indie rock
Length 54:39
Label Lookout!
Producer Ted Leo, Nicolas Vernhes
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists chronology
The Tyranny of Distance
Hearts of Oak
Shake the Sheets
Singles from Hearts of Oak
  1. "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?"
    Released: September 2002

Hearts of Oak is the third studio album by American indie rock band Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, released on February 11, 2003 by Lookout! Records. A music video was filmed for the single "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?".

It was ranked 59th by the online magazine Pitchfork Media on the list of the 200 albums of the decade.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 84/100[1]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[2]
Alternative Press 5/5 stars[3]
Entertainment Weekly B+[4]
Pitchfork Media 8.3/10[5]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[6]
Spin 9/10[7]
The Village Voice B[8]

Hearts of Oak garnered universal acclaim from music critics highlighting Leo's musicianship in terms of lyrical content, instrumentation and vocal performance. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 84, based on 17 reviews.[1]

Tim Sendra of AllMusic found the album a great follow-up to The Tyranny of Distance, praising the controlled stew of different rock genres used throughout and Leo for having an ear for tight musicianship and vocal range, concluding that "Hearts of Oak is a powerful and emotional record that you simply must own. Between this and The Tyranny of Distance, you are looking at a legend in the making."[2] Jason Jackowiak of Splendid also praised Leo for having a vast musical landscape throughout the album to craft tracks with quality songwriting and instrumentation reminiscent of Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello and early-Nick Lowe, concluding that "With a dynamic vengeance and a Celtic tune in his heart, Ted Leo might not be the answer to all the music world's problems. Still, it's certainly a pleasure to wind up Hearts of Oak and watch him go-go-go."[9] Chris Ryan of Spin praised Leo for constructing a consistently sounding band that can conjure elements of Thin Lizzy and Dexy's Midnight Runners combined and put focus on his vocal abilities, saying that "Whether or not Leo remains contextually confined to the so-called indie slums, his horizon reaches far beyond the basement."[7] Joe Caramanica of Entertainment Weekly praised Leo's storytelling ability for being able to create political tales with a pop sensibility to them, saying that "It’s been some time since punk was a viable storytelling genre, but Jersey’s Ted Leo turns gasping, insistent vocals into narratives that are political and pop, never compromising one for the other."[4] Matt Gonzales of PopMatters said that despite some lyrical content feeling too idiosyncratic and obscure with its references, he praised Leo for going head-first against himself and worldwide topical problems with his musically symmetrical band, saying that "Hearts of Oak is an informal message that couldn’t have come at a more fitting time. Leo furiously delineates the dilemma of being a well-educated, well-intentioned American in a time when intelligent skepticism is regarded as sedition. In so passionately revealing his fears and doubts about the world and himself, he reminds us of rock’s power to make everything alright, or as close to alright as it’s gonna get."[10]

In 2009, Pitchfork Media ranked the album number 59 on its list of the Top 200 Albums of the 2000s. Pitchfork Media writer Joshua Love said that "Hearts of Oak is Ted's finest hour, packed to the gills not only with fierce, hyper-intelligent agitprop ("The Ballad of the Sin Eater" shaming Ugly Americans for all eternity), but also combustibly catchy pop-punk hooks."[11]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Ted Leo

No. Title Length
1. "Building Skyscrapers in the Basement"   1:38
2. "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?"   5:02
3. "I'm a Ghost"   4:27
4. "The High Party"   4:53
5. "Hearts of Oak"   5:38
6. "The Ballad of the Sin Eater"   5:20
7. "Dead Voices"   3:43
8. "The Anointed One"   4:10
9. "Bridges, Squares"   4:47
10. "Tell Balgeary, Balgury Is Dead"   4:09
11. "2nd Ave, 11AM"   3:32
12. "First to Finish, Last to Start"   1:54
13. "The Crane Takes Flight"   5:28



  1. ^ a b "Reviews for Hearts Of Oak by Ted Leo & The Pharmacists". Metacritic. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Sendra, Tim. "Hearts of Oak – Ted Leo". AllMusic. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Hearts of Oak". Alternative Press (175): 64. February 2003. 
  4. ^ a b Caramanica, Joe (February 21, 2003). "Hearts of Oak". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 19, 2016. 
  5. ^ Mitchum, Rob (February 7, 2003). "Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Hearts of Oak". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  6. ^ Sheffield, Rob (March 6, 2003). "Ted Leo & The Pharmacists: Hearts Of Oak". Rolling Stone (917). Archived from the original on February 16, 2004. Retrieved February 19, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Ryan, Chris (February 2003). "Ted Leo/Pharmacists: Hearts of Oak". Spin. 19 (2): 98–99. Retrieved February 19, 2016. 
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert (November 18, 2003). "Consumer Guide: Greatest Whatevers". The Village Voice. Retrieved February 19, 2016. 
  9. ^ Jackowiak, Jason (March 10, 2003). "Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak". Splendid. Archived from the original on February 3, 2008. Retrieved May 8, 2016. 
  10. ^ Gonzales, Matt (April 17, 2003). "Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Hearts of Oak". PopMatters. Retrieved May 8, 2016. 
  11. ^ "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 100-51 (Page 5)". Pitchfork Media. September 29, 2009. Retrieved May 9, 2016.