Holy Motors

Slow Sundown

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On their full-length debut Slow Sundown, Holy Motors hone darkness and desire into their most essential, and sensual, forms. Unlike many dream pop and shoegaze bands, the Estonian quintet favors reverb-drenched atmosphere instead of distortion -- something that's even more surprising considering that the band has three guitarists -- and leaves plenty of room for the crushed velvet richness of Ellian Tulve's vocals. On songs like "The Valley"'s Spaghetti Western romance, they evoke past masters of starkly beautiful sounds such as Low, Widowspeak, and Mazzy Star. Like those artists, Holy Motors excel at setting a mood, and it's no coincidence that many of their songs describe the best places to hear them: On the entrancing opener "Honeymooning," Tulve murmurs about "dancing alone" while the rest of the band evokes Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" and Angelo Badalamenti; "Silently for Me" provides the perfect backdrop for "driving alone at night." Occasionally, the drama of Holy Motors' sound overpowers the actual songwriting, and there are times when they become so filmic that their music threatens to fade into the background. Fortunately, there are more moments on Slow Sundown where the band expands on their moody twang. They temper their darkness with hints of innocent pop on "Ghost of Heart," and bring more energy to their music with the driving "Signs." Best of all is "Sleeprydr," where they contrast the song's drowsy verses with a guitar maelstrom that feels like it's been brewing for the entire album. While Slow Sundown could use a few more epic moments like this, there's a lot to be said for its sleepy allure -- it's hard to resist sinking into these songs.

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