Plumbiferous Media

Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness. - Holopaw

Nov 15th 2009
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Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness. - HolopawHolopaw
Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness.
Score: 55

Holopaw, a five-man indie band from Gainesville, was formed in 2001 as a duo between front­man John Orth and gui­tarist Jeff Hays. Fol­low­ing two albums on Sub­pop (a self­ti­tled debut in 2003 and Quit +/or Fight in 2005), the band wait­ed four years to release their third and newest album, Oh, Glo­ry. Oh, Wilder­ness. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, though Oh, Glo­ry. Oh, Wilder­ness has cer­tain com­mend­able sec­tions, name­ly lyrics and parts of the instru­men­tals, it has too many flaws to be an espe­cial­ly good album.

The instru­men­tals of Oh, Glo­ry. Oh, Wilder­ness can be split quite clear­ly into two groups: sec­tions and tran­si­tions. Dur­ing tran­si­tions, the instru­ments fol­low the melody pre­scribed by the voice quite close­ly, adding their own twists and inter­pre­ta­tions. The track shows clear direc­tion, every piece comes togeth­er quite nice­ly, and every­thing sim­ply works. How­ev­er, dur­ing the sec­tions, the pre­dom­i­nant meth­ods become unmov­ing rep­e­ti­tion and gen­er­al inani­ty. There’s noth­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly bad, except maybe the over­ly dis­tort­ed plod­ding of “Boys on Motor­bikes,” but the over­all dulling effect ends up over­whelm­ing the tracks, and even the album as a whole. This, com­bined with a set of tracks that are often quite sim­i­lar to one anoth­er, does not exact­ly improve the qual­i­ty of the album.

John Orth’s vocals on Oh, Glo­ry. Oh, Wilder­ness frankly don’t quite work. His ten­den­cy towards attempt­ing a vibra­to at the end of each line quick­ly degrades into some­thing more like a well-prac­ticed war­ble, which, over the course of the album, becomes quite annoy­ing. Addi­tion­al­ly, Orth’s ten­den­cy to stay with­in one close­ly defined vocal style at all times becomes oner­ous, espe­cial­ly giv­en the lack in vari­a­tion between the ten tracks of Oh, Glo­ry. Oh, Wilder­ness. It can be said that the music is well-mixed, such that Orth’s vocals and the instru­men­tals sit on lev­els that would nor­mal­ly be quite com­ple­men­tary to each oth­er - but in this case, per­haps it would be bet­ter if the instru­men­tals were a bit more prominent.

Lyri­cal­ly, Oh, Glo­ry. Oh, Wilder­ness is inter­est­ing if often con­fus­ing - when the lines aren’t made incom­pre­hen­si­ble by Orth’s inces­sant whine. On “P-a-l-o-m-i-n-e,” Orth sings: “You see me stand­ing at the creek / Through the glass a heav­ing sil­hou­ette / Shoul­ders dropped, tips caught / But I was only bleed­ing / How could you know that I was only bleed­ing?,” an exam­ple of the well-drawn imagery through­out the album. Orth occa­sion­al­ly man­ages to pull off mean­ing­ful tellings of the sto­ries Holopaw is try­ing to tell (see “The Last Trans­mis­sion (Hon­ey­bee)”), but in many cas­es does­n’t do the lyrics jus­tice. In the end, though the lyrics are among the best parts of Oh, Glo­ry. Oh, Wilder­ness, they’re han­dled in such a way as to make it almost cer­tain that they’ll be under appre­ci­at­ed - and it’s a pity.

Oh, Glo­ry. Oh, Wilder­ness is a rather mediocre album. It has its highs, gen­er­al lyri­cal qual­i­ty and cer­tain aspects of instru­men­tals, and its lows, most notably the vocals. Addi­tion­al­ly, the album is cer­tain­ly not ter­ri­bly dar­ing. There’s very lit­tle that could be con­sid­ered sig­nif­i­cant­ly unique, and Holopaw does not pro­vide much diver­si­ty through Oh, Glo­ry. Oh, Wilder­ness. For a band that has had four years to work on this album, it’s a fair­ly dis­ap­point­ing final product.

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