Holopaw had a decent output back in their days on Subpop, but they had been quiet for the better part of the last four years. That is until Bakery Outlet released news that they would put out Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness. And, despite that singer John Orth has ties with Mr. Brock from Modest Mouse, you can’t really feel the odd signatures and multi-instrumental moments that he threw into the completion of the Ugly Cassanova album. It’s much more of a mainstream approach, but by that, perhaps it just means it’s more straightforward than what one would expect.
When “The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion” first burst onto the Internet, there was something really casual about the vocal delivery. It seemed like a band that was comfortable in what they were creating, and that, for me, was quite refreshing. It was just a simple guitar driven song, nothing special about it, but nothing one would consider mundane.
For the most part, the album doesn’t do too much else to steer you away from that understanding. “Boys on Motorbikes” has a strange feeling of 90s radio meeting with vocals of someone like Bazan or Enigk or even one of the Kinsella brothers. Something in the vocal just seems to pull at that emotional level just enough to differentiate itself, but not so much to where you will forever remember the vocals.
A special moment does appear on “Cherry Glow,” the album’s fourth track. Strummed guitar serves as the primary background for Orth’s voice, and then it slowly builds towards a quickening of the pace. And as the lead guitar takes over, you’re reminded that you’ve found a song; the female backing vocals cooing in the background don’t hurt too much either. Similarly, “The Last Transmission” is perfect as a single instrument strong. Sure, the flourishes in the background from the slide guitar aren’t really going to hurt anyone, but by itself, you can really get pulled into the song itself. All this can probably be placed at the foot of Holopaw‘s history, as they were forced into a duo years ago, only to pick back up as a group very recently.
The group aesthetic is all well and good, but some of the songs, such as “Little Stallion with a Glass Jaw” sometimes seem a bit overdone by having the full band presence. This is what makes Oh, Glory. Oh Wilderness. a good album as opposed to a moderately great one. Intimate moments across the album are perfect and rewaring, but occasionally, you just seem to get stuck in the middle of the album. Alas, they’ve just reformed a proper band, so the future for Holopaw could be very bright.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/holopawartteacher.mp3]
Download: Holopaw – The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion [MP3]