Release Date: Jan 15, 2013
Record label: Misra
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Country-Rock
I can remember twice when I experienced snow in Florida. The first time feels hazy—I recall stuffing my sparkly bangled arms into thick, magenta coat sleeves for the occasion but not much else. The second remains crystal: I stood outside a Tallahassee liquor store the day after Christmas two years ago. A Miami native and FLA-all-day gal, my mom looked around puzzled, a bottle of Bombay Sapphire fisted.
Led by singer/songwriter John Orth, Florida-based indie band Holopaw have molded epic statements more than they've been on any regular release schedule with their albums. Academy Songs, Vol. 1 is their fourth album, arriving 12 years after their inception. The highly ornamented and painstakingly arranged album follows more delicate early fare, and presents a song cycle based around a loose narrative taking place at an all-boys academy.
Over three albums, Holopaw achieved a sort of mesmerizing sleight of hand. They sounded fragile – particularly with John Orth’s wavering vocals – and their compositions felt ramshackle, foundations of brittle wood and loose screws. They felt cracked, broken down, desiccated. Repeated listens, though, especially to 2009’s Oh Glory, Oh Wilderness, revealed a strength and cohesion to their sound.
Storytelling is an integral part of a musician's work. Oftentimes, songwriters either don't pay enough attention to it or leave it as a secondary part of their music, or the opposite happens — they fixate too much on it, losing themselves in their words instead of melodies. It's a fine balance, and Holopaw's fourth album, Academy Songs Volume 1, finds John Orth falling into the latter category.
The fourth album from Gainesville, FL outfit Holopaw takes the perspective of a preparatory school boy, unsure of himself, passing through a beclouded world as best he can. He’s not the bad kid or the popular kid, the funny kid or the poor one. He’s the introverted kid, aware of his surroundings, his head racing with confused thoughts and starry observations.
Boarding schools have made good settings for horror movies, from cult faves like Phenomena to underrated gems like Lucky McKee]s The Woods. These institutions are typically remote and cloistered, which means the characters are often held sway by barely repressed desires and stiflingly local legends. Fears can breed unmolested by the real world, and help is always just outside of screaming range.
Academy Songs, Volume I unfolds within the confines of an imagined all-boys prep academy in frontman John Orth's mind. And while the single "Golden Sparklers" delivers a flicker, it turns out to be more of a flash in the pan by the time the last track rolls around..