Swedish songwriter/producer Joel Wästberg funneled the inspirations and reflections from his travels into his genre-bending music under the sir Was moniker. His 2017 debut full-length, Digging a Tunnel, was the result of years of experimenting with production, texture, songwriting, and wrangled synths, field recordings of bagpipes, and airy electronic beats to make a friendly and dreamlike travelog. Second album Holding on to a Dream continues sir Was' decidedly dreamy and lush sound, turning inward instead of out for the travel-inspired themes of the first album. The album begins with the bounding "Fly Away." Not quite R&B, electronic, indie, or pop but containing elements of all, Wästberg's gentle multi-tracked vocals sit on top of a wide-open beat that builds in subtle ways as additional synths, percussion, and samples are introduced. "No Giving Up" and "Deployed" are both standout tracks, the latter featuring a guest vocal performance from Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano. These songs are two of the more extroverted and upbeat on the relatively subdued album, tapping into the livelier side of Wästberg's multifaceted take on soul, synths, and melody. While the majority of Holding on to a Dream takes on a slightly more relaxed mood, the introspective themes and gentle touch create a warm environment that's more captivating than sleepy. The jazzy sampling of "The Sun Will Shine" is laid-back and cheery without crowding its arrangement, and more ambient takes on pop like the guitar-led "See U Again" keep the mood of the album open and approachable. Where Digging a Tunnel was crafted after years of work and had a labored feel, the relatively uncluttered approach of Holding on to a Dream enhances its warmth and sense of intimacy.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas