HOLOPAW - ACADEMY SONGS, VOLUME I
Misra Records was kind enough to send us an advance copy of the upcoming album, Academy Songs, Volume I from the ever-evolving Gainesville, Florida project Holopaw. The cast of revolving members currently consists of front-man John Orth, guitarist Patrick Quinney, his identical twin brother and drummer Ryan Quinney, bassist Jeff McMullen, and multi-instrumentalists Jeffrey Hays and Matt Radick.
These new songs find Holopaw at their most polished. I am not normally a big fan of super slick production, but on Academy it is completely effective. Jeremy Scott of Brooklyn’s Civil Defense Studios set up recording equipment in a St. Augustine beach house. There he and the band lived, recorded, and found natural inspiration in the surrounding terrain. The peacefulness and wonder of the coast comes through in the songs. Scott captured Holopaw with incredible clarity and definition.
At its core, this record is the same marriage of organic, firm-footed indie rock and exotic electronics that has been Holopaw's signature for more than a decade. But on Academy the organic element is less focused on acoustic guitar. There is nothing folky about this release. The music is instead grounded by an extremely tight band, Orth's incredible vocal range, and songs that are catchy without being dismissible.
Much of the album is driven by Ryan Quinney's orchestral drumming, ethereal washes of cinematic keyboards, and reverb-laden pedal-steel guitar. Even the sparser tracks such as “Bedfellows Farewell” and “Golden Years”, which are reminiscent of Holopaw's earlier work, have a completely reimagined and modern sound. Throughout the album, lush backing harmonies seamlessly coalesce with Orth's vocal swells, channeling Robert Smith circa Disintegration. This is especially true on “Golden Sparklers” and “Dirty Boots He Don't“, two of the strongest tracks.
Many people may remember Orth for his involvement in Sharpen Your Teeth, the 2002 album from Ugly Casanova which featured Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. Holopaw has, however, been a consistent source of artful and inventive indie rock since they formed in 2001. Academy Songs, Volume I is their most ambitious release yet. It is sure to resonate with a larger audience than their previous records.