The solo debut from the English singer/songwriter and guitarist for pseudo-hippie, Los Angeles-based retro-pop confectioners Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, Hold Fast offers up a gentler take on Christian Letts' flagship band's kaleidoscopic folk-pop while maintaining the Magnetic Zeroes' patina of folksy, tie-dyed optimism. Produced by Marcus Mumford, whom Letts befriended in 2011 while the Zeroes were opening for Mumford & Sons on their Railroad Revival Tour, Hold Fast is a largely acoustic affair that pairs Letts' expressive voice, which falls somewhere between the throaty and authoritative midnight croon of Steppenwolf's John Kay and the cocksure and conversational warble of Lou Reed, with sparse, fingerpicked guitar and the occasional Mumford-inspired, banjo- and kick drum-driven backbeat, the latter of which is best exemplified by the album's two most sonically upbeat and immediate numbers, "The Oath" and "Emeralds." As film trailer and radio-ready as those two cuts are, it's the quieter moments on Hold Fast that really resonate. "The Keeper," with its soft, almost monastic cadence and the shimmery, heartfelt "Charles de Gaulle" are as warm and intimate as they are shot through with a subtle undercurrent of anglo-grit. Still, Magnetic Zeroes fans will find that much of Hold Fast feels awfully familiar, which is unsurprising considering the fact that Letts' pen, as well as his guitar, have been behind some of the band's best moments, but here he is at his best when he drops the Laurel Canyon posturing and chooses to filter his Americana through the rocky soil of the English countryside.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger