Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Holopaw preps third album, Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness

I don't believe that many people actually sing these days. Generally "singing" usually sounds like some sort of talking or yelling in tune. Bjork sings, Chan Marshall of Cat Power sings, that Thom Yorke fellow from Radiohead sings, and yes, you saw it coming. John Orth from Holopaw also sings. That's what really grabbed me: the singing and the lyrics. With a quivering, liquid voice and lyrics that make you feel like you're standing there and smelling the air of all four seasons; the sky is the perfect color that it only becomes for a few minutes, every once in a while. You're heartbroken, you're in love, the world's not complicated.

-Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse, Ugly Casanova)

'Oh' is an invective, the poet's alchemy. Most commonly used to express either an emotion (as surprise or desire) in response to physical stimuli, or to acknowledge understanding of a statement or situation. In lesser songs it's a trite shorthand. With Holopaw the word becomes benediction, praise and gateway."

-Travis Fristoe (Obscurist Press)

"The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion" is the first track on Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness. the third offering from Holopaw. The song introduces the character the Little Stallion who inhabits most of the songs to come. "Toy piano tinklings punctuate his every step" as we follow his coming of age. His journey is marked by lost sailors, boys on motorbikes, lazy matadors, hobbyists and foxes lurking in fake gas lamp light. The Little Stallion welcomes these characters, seduces them with "polished pearls" or is, in turn, seduced by their "horseplay, towel whips and bathing suits rolled down off sunless hips". He falls in love with them and, more often than not, betrays them causing him to lament, "So many sailors lost to this drunken sea, so many sailors lost to me." There is sweetness and grit, longing and potential violence.
Holopaw musically plays with similar tensions: lulling strings are undercut by anxious guitars, lilting "la's" turn sinister and demanding. In "Little Stallion with a Glass Jaw" horn blasts announce a charge that is quickly clipped to a hush. The bounce of "P-a-l-o-m-i-n-e" stumbles towards chaos at the bridge only to be righted by a whimsical Bay City Rollers-esque chant. The last song on the record, "The Hobbyist and the Conductor (Avalanche)" begins with bright, carillon chimes that stand in stark contrast to the thunderous din that ends the song like a slack jawed finale to a fireworks display. Triumphant "la's" punch through the smoke and ash to have the final say.
The band articulating these musical tensions is Holopaw's strongest yet. The core songwriting team of John Orth and Jeff Hays has remained constant. The lineup has contracted and expanded in the swampy heat of Gainesville, Florida to now include Patrick Quinney, Matt Radick, Jeff McMullen, Christa Molinaro and Jody Bilinski. Throughout the record Pink Razor's Erin Tobey lends sublime backing vocals and harmonies to buoy these otherwise troubled tales.
The album was recorded over a year and several trips to New York by Jeremy Scott (Woods, Vivian Girls, These Are Powers) at The Civil Defense studios in Brooklyn, USA. Holopaw is joined by members of Taigaa!, the Good Good, and Mahogany who add violin, clarinet, and trombone. Their additions further embellish arrangements that include trumpet, pedal steel, organ, accordion, piano, cello, clavinet, pianet and rhodes. After two records on the Sub Pop label (Holopaw, s/t and Quit +/or Fight), the band considered both self-release and working with Glacial Pace Recordings (owned and operated by John's friend and collaborator on the Ugly Casanova record, Isaac Brock) before deciding to join the Bakery Outlet family.
The last line of Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness. calls out, "The trains that you sent screaming into tunnels (boot black) will spill into the light. La, La, La, La, La!" Oh, Glory. Indeed.

10/21 New York, NY Pianos (CMJ)

Full East Coast Tour TBA


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