Thursday, November 05, 2009

Holopaw - "Oh, Glory, Oh, Wilderness"

After four long years, Holopaw finally returns with their third album, Oh, Glory, Oh, Wilderness out now on Bakery Outlet Records. After some lineup addition and subtraction, the main songwriters remain in John Orth and Jeff Hays. The new album expands their inventive indie rock-country sound with new instrumental embellishments alongside John’s undeniably pretty falsetto and folksy poetic lyrics.

To open the album, John adopts a quivering vibrato on the chorus of “The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion” which also features playful background vocals from Erin Tobey of Pink Razor and softly chugging violins to great effect. “The Lazy Matador” is pure beauty with a shiver-inducing combination of strings, clarinet and vocals. “P-A-L-O-M-I-N-E” is upbeat with chanted group background vocals, chiming guitars and an arrangement filled with peaks and valleys. The jubilant horns announce Holopaw’s return on “Little Stallion with a Glass Jaw” along with a loose chugging guitar riff that leans more toward a 70’s soft-rock sound than the spacey folk of their debut. On the other hand, “The Last Transmission Honeybee)” is the most similar to their debut as it references lyrical touchstones an Appaloosa and a Palomino, while blending John’s voice with whining pedal steel and softly picked guitar. “Oh, Glory” ushers in rubbery guitars, more horns and a string section that tries to match the inherent beauty in John’s lilting vocals. “Boys On Motorbikes” plays with cascading and echoing guitars, crashing drums and Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies on the standout track. “The Cherry Glow” bounces on wiry guitars and a cyclical vocal melody to a cathartic release. Another standout, “Black Lacquered Shame” builds momentum with spooky background vocals, a stirring guitar solo and repeats the ominous mantra of “It’s all over, all over, all over” from “Little Stallion with a Glass Jaw” before changing tempos to end the song. The last song, “The Conductor and The Hobbyist (Avalanche)” burns slowly with an emotional vocal before erupting into a caterwauling display with multiple instruments leaving the listener wanting more as a good last track should.

With Oh, Glory, Oh, Wilderness, Holopaw definitely made it worth the wait between albums. I just hope the wait for album number four is a lot shorter...


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