Review : Holopaw - Oh Glory Oh Wilderness
PitchforkHave we had Holopaw wrong all these years? The Gainesville, Fla.-based band's first two albums were lumped in with the indie Americana crowd, thanks as much to their rustic instrumentations as to singer John Orth's 2002 collaboration with Isaac Brock. But a few years and a label change later, now they seem a band apart, loners entrenched in no particular scene but their own. Even the recognizable elements on their third album, Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness., sound slightly askew. The warble in Orth's voice, more pronounced here, is too high-pitched to ever be mistaken for Conor Oberst; the drawling pedal steel is more mood-setting than alt-countrifying; and the band arrive at insinuating hooks not with pop GPS, but with the patient wanderlust to know that each song will coalesce into something expressive and affecting.
Holopaw's indieward progression from Sub Pop in one corner of the country to Bakery Outlet in the other only reasserts their peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, and if Oh, Glory isn't their most immediately commanding album, it's most definitely their Holopaw-est-- and a grower to boot, relinquishing a few more mysteries with each listen. Gone are the grafted-on electronica elements of their self-titled 2003 debut and the shambling settings of their 2005 follow-up, Quit+/or Fight. Instead, the band has developed a livelier sound that fluctuates between the looseness of Pavement and the melodic focus of Death Cab. The change in sound mirrors a change in line-up: Following Quit, most of the band members split, leaving core duo Orth and Jeff Hays to carry on. They rounded out Holopaw with a new rhythm section that moves these songs along at a more rambunctious pace, a new guitarist who doodles curlicues all over the songs, and a cellist who adds sweeping undercurrents to Orth's melodies....full text
DustedmagazineJohn Orth’s Holopaw got an auspicious start early on, when a connection with Isaac Brock (via Ugly Casanova) brought the Florida songwriter to Sub Pop’s attention. The first two albums, a self-titled in 2003 and Quit +/or Fight in 2005, got a big indie push that seemed out of proportion with their wispy, intensely inward-looking aura. The debut, particularly, was a delicate thing, a kind of mirage in still water that might disappear in the slightest breeze. Even the relatively dense “Cinders” with its woozy brass accompaniment, sounded like the daydreams inside of one very eccentric head; sparer cuts fluttered weightlessly, timelessly on Orth’s distinctively tremulous voice. Now, four years after the second album, untethered to Sub Pop and with an almost entirely new band, Orth is making the idiosyncratic, self-determined music that he always seemed destined for – which, oddly enough, is denser, more collaborative and more pop than either of his previous albums.
Consider, for instance, the quasi title cut, “Oh Glory,” bursting into being in a full-marching band blast, cutting to whispered nothings, then gathering strength in lush, carefully orchestrated crescendos. Not much is left of Orth’s country underpinnings, which earlier grounded his odd, bubble-pipe vibrato in old-time tradition. Instead, he has turned toward the swelling pop of certain Scandinavians (Loney Dear, Choir of Young Believers), building airy, ornate choruses out of the most buoyant of materials. There are quiet moments – just Orth’s delicate voice and guitar picking – but almost always these lead to louder, more triumphant resolution, thickened with strings, vocal harmonies, brass and emphatic percussion. “The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion” starts with a ballad’s fluidity, twists of violin, plinks of electric keyboard, curving and twining over the melody, yet it turns rhythmically, definitively rock, before it’s end. “P-A-L-O-M-I-N-E” transforms even more dramatically, moving from a barely there emotional tremble into group-shouted enthusiasm – the first Holopaw song, I believe, to include “hey! hey! hey!”s....full text
PastemagazineOn their first two albums, Holopaw ruffled hushed folk with synths and loops. Nestled in almost-sterile arrangements, John Orth’s flutey voice defined fragility, as circular arpeggios turned like quiet screws. Their new album, thankfully, still sounds like Holopaw. It’s just that now, Orth’s voice is often buffeted by bright bursting chords, and leads glinting with pretty little errors. Standard but effective strings and horns sub in for electronics. The result is an album that’s vigorously lily-livered, with hardly a dull moment to be found. Orth’s lyrics are holistic and tender; rich with impressions of shipwrecks, honeybees, smoke and spearmint.
Prayerful moments like “The Last Transmission (Honeybee)” offset the rockers, which themselves have a muted glow, bone-weary yet anthemic. The guitar on “The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion” catches like a sob in the throat, as Orth sings, “Whistled through your crooked teeth / I never noticed your crooked teeth.” That sums up the whole record: A startled elegy, crammed with emotionally penetrating details....full text
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