Jake Holmes

A Letter to Katherine December

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Holmes' second album boasts much fuller production than his debut, which gains in sonic scope, but also loses some of the hushed-and-damned atmosphere that was one of his strongest attributes. Often this sounds like a weird cross between mild acid folk and Broadway show orchestration -- a combination which isn't all that appetizing. Holmes' songs are often eccentric observational musings, like one on the "High School Hero," now saddled with a depressing mundane life that put him outside both the commercial mainstream and underground hipdom. Again, his vocals, whether by deliberate choice or as a consequence of underproduction, have a hollow cardboardish quality, and lamentably the limitations of his range become apparent the louder and higher he needs to sing. As on Holmes' first LP, Ted Irwin adds interesting if not always perfectly suited wiry jazz psychedelic guitar playing. For all its drawbacks, the record includes a startling doom-laden folk psychedelic track, "Leaves That Are Breaking," with some meltdown fuzz guitar by Irwin. That mood is broken/contrasted when the LP segues into "It's Always Somewhere Else," which sounds like the jazziest and breeziest cuts from Love's Forever Changes, yet in an even breezier and cheerier vibe. It's down in the dumps again for the closing "Houston Street," in which Holmes' vocal is barely a mumble against formless, wandering (but spare) guitars, cementing the somewhat manic-depressive aura of the record.

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