Holopaw

Holopaw

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A delicate, contemplative union of indie rock, country, and electronica, Holopaw's self-titled debut shows off more of John Orth's singing and songwriting talent, which he also displayed on Ugly Casanova's Sharpen Your Teeth. A similarly quirky, backwater sensibility permeates this album, but Holopaw's sound is dreamier and more quietly unconventional. The mix of pedal steel, gurgling synths, and drum machines on songs like "Abraham Lincoln," added to Orth's charmingly frail vocals, make Holopaw a slightly supernatural, hothouse hybrid of different styles and ideas. Though indie-country-tronica isn't quite as iconoclastic as it used to be, Orth's take on this sound is still distinctive from likeminded groups such as Wilco, Sparklehorse, and the Radar Brothers. At times songs like "Hoover" recall the work of the latter two bands, but Holopaw's sound is softer and less stylized; this song and the folky "Pony Apprehension" are both about horses, and you get the impression that they're living creatures instead of merely being metaphorical devices. For the most part, Holopaw stays on the folk and country side of the alt-country equation, even delving into bluegrass territory with the galloping, mandolin-driven "Igloo Glass." However, Orth finds plenty of ways to recombine the main elements of Holopaw's sound into charming variations: "Took It for a Twinkle" rocks, albeit very gently, while the spooky "Cinders" sounds a little like Radiohead's version of alt-country might be like, with its mix of brass, drum machines, and steel guitar loops. Above all, the album is a quiet, restrained affair despite its playful sonics; Orth's singing and arrangements demand your full attention -- and headphones, ideally -- to bloom completely. Fortunately, Holopaw is such a pretty and promising debut that it rewards concentrated listening.

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