Think of the perfect summer. What would that entail? Warm weather, a beautiful locale, women, and cold drinks? Maybe a road trip with the love of your life? Well, when that summer is experienced, does it ever feel as if something is missing in between all of the memorable moments? Does it feel as if a general theme for the entire summer doesn’t really exist? Look for the filler no longer: Hollands is here to satisfy the empty spaces. Described as the perfect summer “soundscape,” this band definitely has something new and clever up its sleeve.
Hollands, a band formed by singer/songwriter John-Paul Norpoth and violinist Janinna Barefield, is beginning to make quite a name for itself. Being compared to bands such as Pink Floyd and Neil Young and Crazy Horse is no small feat. The question is, does their latest EP, Mother, live up to the same sonic standards set by the legends mentioned above? The answer, sadly, is no, but that doesn’t mean something unique and worthwhile can’t be found here.
This six-song EP begins with a southern-twang pop odyssey; “Air Conditioned Heart” sets the tone for the entire record: variety. This one song contains many different genres of music, including southern rock, progressive rock, and even pop. It’s all topped off by dreamy vocals that sing of Kansas, tandem bicycles, and willow trees. The song even dives into a Shaft-esque portion of funk and bluesy goodness.
The rest of the record consists of soft and heavy art-rock and folk endeavors. Songs such as “Just Like Them” and “Lungs of Steel” are perfect examples of the heavy folk-rock sound trying to be produced. The acoustic guitar’s constant rhythm and the electric guitar’s constant meandering creates a very unique atmosphere. Include the consistent southern-folk drumbeat, and you have the perfect idea of what this band has to offer. The second to last song, “Jackie” (I apologize for the comparison) sounds as if Jack Johnson had something to do with it. I won’t say anything more about it. The last song, “Dirty Rum”, is where the band truly shines. Deep piano chords and a dissonant acoustic guitar line provide perfect foundation for Norpoth’s sharp vocals. The lyrics discuss “clones” and “guns” and “the troubles of a broken man,” painting a picture rarely seen.
Hollands is definitely headed in the right creative direction. They have a very unique sound and the foundation for it truly shines on Mother. The variety of musical genres on this EP shows that experimentation is still a big part of their songwriting, but it’s in the experimentation that some songs lose sight of what is actually trying to be accomplished. A little bit of refining, and I’m sure that Hollands’ unique sound can be made apparent. There are also enough sonic surprises to keep you listening to this six-songer for quite some time. - CoS
Hollands' second EP is a bit longer than their 2008 debut EP, Faces, with John-Paul Norpoth remaining prominent as the composer of almost all the material. Though not easily described, Norpoth's songs here are on the more downbeat side of singer/songwriter rock, even on the perhaps ironically titled "Cheerio!" His vocals are slightly reminiscent of the style singers like Ray Davies have brought to their phrasing, observing bad or at least mixed fortunes as if a touch of bemused detachment makes the situation easier to bear. The musical settings veer from near-folkiness to touches of fuzzy guitar blasts, and while string arrangements are employed, they're so subtle as to go largely unnoticed on what's basically a straight-ahead alternative rock record. - Richie U. All Music Guide
released 15 October 2009
John-Paul Norpoth - guitars, vocals, electric & upright bass, drum/computer hacking
Jannina Barefield - violin, synthesizer, string arr.
Earl Maneein - electric violin, acoustic violin, string arr.
Kenny Grohowski - drums
Jim Robertson - electric bass
Eleanor North - cello
Jon Weber - viola
Curt Hartling - vocals
All lyrics by John-Paul Norpoth. All music by John-Paul Norpoth.
Published by Helm the Barb Songs (SESAC)
EXCEPT "Jackie: Music and Lyrics by John-Paul Norpoth and Phil Weinrobe. Published by Helm the Barb Songs (SESAC)
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