Damn, it’s hot. I’m sitting here in my boxer shorts, nursing a Pyramid Hefeweizen, doing my best to think cold thoughts, but nonetheless, I’m sweating. There’s no avoiding the heat. And it’s only worse in other parts of the country. People have already died from exposure to Helios’ merciless punishment in our nation’s desert region. And in Florida, locals have endured not only 90 plus degree weather, but the effects of a hurricane weather system as well. It makes you wonder why in the hell anybody would live there. But it does give some explanation as to the direction Florida sextet Holopaw has gone on their new record, Quit +/ Or Fight. Listening to it seems to have almost a cooling effect, if you can believe it.
The eleven songs on Quit +/ Or Fight, a title I still have yet to decode, take the group’s whiskey-soaked alt-country into new, shaded realms. It’s a perfect summertime album, but not because it’s a fun-in-the-sun kind of soiree. This party has its hat on, its beer chilled and its AC running at full blast. In Florida, you need every defense you can find during its cruel summer, and why not do it with chilled-out electronics, easy-going soul and a little bit of the Velvets? Holopaw combine all these elements, in addition to their avant garde country leanings, to create something that feels nice amidst an endless UV ray beating.
This probably sounds like it’s going to eventually result in my calling Holopaw easy listening. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s nothing conventional or mainstream about what Holopaw does. They’re catchy, but not for any reason that’s easy to explain. But we got the catchy part out of the way, so no need to dwell on that any longer.
Never ones to chug away at a power chord, Holopaw keeps it pretty low-key this time around, opening with a clean-toned, soulful guitar riff on “Losing Light,” a subdued, yet immediate opener that sets the tone with a nice melody that never overbears, never intrudes and just seems to flow, effortlessly. This vibe continues on “3 Shy Cubs,” which ultimately reverts to a more conventional, early Wilco-like alt-country outro.
Some of the chilliest parts of the record are the way they are because of electronics, something not often associated with the Palace/Lambchop sort that Holopaw has so frequently been compared. “Curious,” in particular floats in a sea of synth tones, while “Holiday” merely uses them for less obvious ends. When they do stick to the traditional, twangy sound, as in “Velveteen” or “Clearing,” the end result is equally pleasing, bearing more of a similarity to bands like Calexico or Sparklehorse. Even then, it’s not quite “normal,” but the band makes even the weirdest moments go down easily. And these songs, admittedly, carry more of a warm desert evening kind of vibe rather than that of either a swampy Florida afternoon or a hazy coastal morning.
It’s unlikely that the room has actually cooled off all that much between the time that this review began and now, yet I feel strangely more comfortable. I suppose a good record can have that quality. Even if by distraction, Quit +/ Or Fight has taken a half-hour from my miserable weather torture and made it surprisingly tolerable. Of course, the beer may have had something to do with that as well.
Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
Ugly Casanova – Sharpen Your Teeth
Pernice Brothers – Overcome by Happiness
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.