I am in a unique position to review the new album by Her Space Holiday. Whereas a vast majority of critics requested the new material by Marc Bianchi expecting more music along the lines of the last five HSH albums, that being bedroom laptop IDM wizardry, I didn’t know what to expect. After a number of undisclosed years, a collection of near 6000 CD’s and climbing, not even counting the LP’s, cassettes and discs that have come and gone over time, I had never heard Her Space Holiday. So, I haven’t had the same reaction that the Bianchi faithful have exhibited, namely disappointment over perceived betrayal. XOXO Panda, and the New Kid Revival marks the second drastic turn in Bianchi’s style as he started out hardcore, turned laptop, and now has abandoned the computers for acoustic guitars and a full band sound.
From the album’s title, to the artwork, and finally to the song titles and music within, XOXO Panda is dripping with cutesy flair. Armed with the high school naïveté of Rivers Cuomo’s early work, the twee innocence of Belle & Sebastian and the lo-fi musical and vocal imperfections of No Age, the album could seemingly be a mess of incongruous ideas, but instead manages to please and entertain with every silly turn. Songs such as “The New Kid Revival,” “No More Good Ideas,” “Four Tapping Shoes and a Kiss” and “Two Tin Cans and a Length of String” subtly and subversively woo the listener into thinking the world is a much better place than it actually is.
Varied instruments including banjoes, mandolins and snapping fingers all lend themselves to the cavalcade of cute, but somehow Bianchi manages to save us from lapsing into diabetic coma with just enough irony, noise and earnestness. Sure, the music is a far cry from his former stuff, so I hear, but it succeeds well enough on its own. But, I do understand what the HSH faithful are feeling. I felt the same way about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I suppose I might be the only person in the world who didn’t enjoy the film, but being a David Fincher fan, I expected more than just Forrest Gump 2: The Freaky Old Baby, a.k.a. “Run Benji Run!” Of course, I might have felt that way if I hadn’t seen Fincher’s past films. But I urge all HSH fans to set aside the blinders and listen with new ears, or at least to set aside expectations. XOXO Panda, and the New Kid Revival is a testament to the powers of reinvention and a worthy debut of an acoustic singer / songwriter.