Soft-spoken indie band rocks out on excellent third album
On their first two albums, Holopaw ruffled hushed folk with synths and loops. Nestled in almost-sterile arrangements, John Orth’s flutey voice defined fragility, as circular arpeggios turned like quiet screws. Their new album, thankfully, still sounds like Holopaw. It’s just that now, Orth’s voice is often buffeted by bright bursting chords, and leads glinting with pretty little errors. Standard but effective strings and horns sub in for electronics. The result is an album that’s vigorously lily-livered, with hardly a dull moment to be found. Orth’s lyrics are holistic and tender; rich with impressions of shipwrecks, honeybees, smoke and spearmint.
Prayerful moments like “The Last Transmission (Honeybee)” offset the rockers, which themselves have a muted glow, bone-weary yet anthemic. The guitar on “The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion” catches like a sob in the throat, as Orth sings, “Whistled through your crooked teeth / I never noticed your crooked teeth.” That sums up the whole record: A startled elegy, crammed with emotionally penetrating details.