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. Singer John Orth’s gentle vibrato is well positioned to channel the nervous, ephemeral innocence of boyhood curiosity. Beyond him, the instrumentation builds with percussive jolts that create a terrain both explosive and calm, like watching fireworks in the snow.
Album opener “Academy” introduces this soft and soaring dichotomy. This track finds the usually sedated Orth declaring, “The Earth shall tremble,” which is a thought he returns to later on “Golden Years”. Earthquakes are not an occurrence one would associate with the lazy, looping Holopaw. But their shifts and shudders remain constant within the consciousness of the young narrator as he sets off beyond the academy’s ivy-covered walls to explore the space both around the school and within himself.
Highlight “Dirty Boots He Don’t” finds Holopaw capturing the troubled atmosphere of a Jeff Buckley song, drying in the breeze of a Florida sunset. Orth’s talent for creating outdoor landscapes appears on “Golden Sparklers”, where the chorus bellows, “Hips to hips and knees to knees / the heaving hills, the swollen seas / the hollows and the frozen peaks/ fingers smell of tangerines.” “Discotheque”’s image of flickering light from a deserted hang out spot is also quite charming and sad: “So many reasons to be lonely on this night / but then the discotheque is nothing/ it’s just testing the light.”
All this sentiment on Academy Songs finds quaint meaning in an age of foreclosures and abandoned dreams. It also speaks to the gradual loss of innocence: Boys cannot remain at the academy forever and all snow must melt.
Essential Tracks: “Discotheque”, “Dirty Boots He Don’t”, and “Golden Years”