Holopaw – Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness

Holopaw lead singer John Orth’s voice is pretty unusual. It vibrates with a slight tremble at the end of each line as if he has a giant tremelo arm built into his face.

While undeniably odd, it is not annoying and fits well with Florida band Holopaw’s laidback take on indie-rock and folk. For those unfamiliar with Holopaw, think Okkervil River. There are clear similarities, with both having intelligent lyrics, acoustic guitar moments and flourishes of trumpets. Having said that Holopaw are their own band and the comparison is just a useful point of reference rather than an accusation of style-stealing.

Three albums in and Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness is the band’s most accomplished to date as strings and horns are strewn across an album that rocks out in places and gets nice and folky in others.

Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness also marks a change of label from Sub-Pop to Bakery Outlet and new membership for the band, which “splintered”, according to the band’s website around three years ago following their  second album, Quit+/or Fight.

Only two members from that Quit+/or Fight line up remain, Orth and keyboardist and guitarist Jeff Hays, who are joined by new members Patrick Quinney (guitar), Jody Bilinski (drums), Krista Molinaro (cello), Jeff Mcmullen (bass) and multi-instrumentalist, Matt Radick.

The website adds that, “we are really proud of this record.  It has more swagger, bounce and growl than previous efforts.” They have good reason to be proud, Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness is a wonderful listen with a host of stand out tracks including ‘Oh, Glory’, which is among the softest on the album and a track that makes good use of trumpet.

Opening track ‘The Art Teacher and The Little Stallion’, is another stand out. A kind of indie-folk take on 1980s bands such as Prefab Sprout and Scritti-Pollitti, with added violin moments. ‘The Lazy Matador’ is also worth a mention. Orth’s facial tremolo arm is in overdrive here, which adds to the emotion.

Whether Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness ends up being Holopaw’s breakthrough album remains to be seen. There are some that will not like Orth’s voice, but if that’s the case they are missing out on one of America’s most interesting indie bands.

8/10

by Joe Lepper, Nov 2009

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