Playing for an Audience of Candles Album reviews.
Release Date: 05.11.99
Record label: Orchard
Playing for an Audience of Intricacy
by: mark feldman
"What would life be without a few cracks?" muses this talented guitarist on the opening track to his new album. Indeed, imperfection seems to be a common theme in the songs of Luke Holder, whether it's in the degeneration of a relationship going stale, the confessions of an immature college sophomore, the guilt of a criminal, or even the indulgences of an infatuated and tortured soul.
And he succeeds by an intelligent synthesis of emotion and music in a way that very few acoustic guitarist / songwriters can. Take the very first song, "Cracks" - an effortlessly catchy upbeat tune weaved around words like "Oblivious to the things that are going good / I can't think straight but I thought someday I could / it's like making a million dollars and bitching about the tax / what would life be without a few cracks?" Or the sudden shift from a minor to a major key in "Dark and Lovely" coupled with "He had never felt these emotions before / all together in a positive way." Or the happy-go-lucky refrain of "Curbside Philosophy" - "Curbside philosophy of the anointed sophomore / I spend my time feeling better than all the freshmen / who have to do all the things I did before." Or how about the Eddie Vedder-like wailing in "Impress Me" - "Just to get the taste of lust / and the taste of sin on your lips" as a violin hums steadily in the background?
He also succeeds by an ability to take a simple three or four chord progression and stretch it out into an epic beat poem like only a select few - think a punkish Bob Dylan, or more accurately a male and slightly subdued Ani DiFranco. "Curbside Philosophy" and "Feel Good" in particular both exhibit the DiFranco like twang, but with some added twists, like some haunting multi-tracked vocals, some fuzzbox guitar on the former, and some overly candid lyrics on the latter.
But Holder forges an identity of his own by being so versatile. In addition to the twang, there's some beautiful confessional stuff going on here. "Impress Me," "Heart and a Hammer" and "K in NYC" are as stellar and plaintive a trio of pleas from the heart as you're going to find in today's irony-filled music scene.
This is an extremely intricate, complex folk-rock album, in that it's full of intelligent writing and playing from start to finish. If you do anything else while you listen to it you'll probably miss something. Turn down the lights and play this one when you're feeling introspective. If there's any justice in the world, Luke Holder won't be playing to an audience of candles for long.