Though Understories is the debut album from the Hollyhocks, the band has quite a pedigree. Guitarist Dan Jewett co-wrote the Counting Crows’ hit “Round Here” with Adam Duritz, and singer Kristen Sobditch spent a long time touring with American Music Club’s Mark Eitzel. That the band sounds polished on this, their first record, is no surprise. The guitars have a professional shine to them on the languid sway of “Lightning and Timing” or the moodier tones of lead single “Sugar”. Sobditch’s vocals are sweet and keening throughout, and the band’s understated shuffle smartly makes room for that voice, while Jewett’s guitar work echoes the sweetness of her voice nicely. It’s telling, though, that the best song here is a cover of Def Leppard’s “Photograph”. This earnest take on the song is lilting and glides on strings arranged by Magik*Magik Orchestra’s Minna Choi, and it shows an inventive side to the band. The rest of the album sounds nice, but songs don’t distinguish themselves. The whole album slides by at mid-tempo and, though the shimmering layers are nice they become a too-shiny patina that keeps the listener from digging into these songs. Understories sounds nice, but—oddly enough—it’s hard to dig into the stories under the band’s sound.
- "Before Your Birthday" Soundcloud
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
// Notes from the Road
"Saul Williams played a free, powerful Summerstage show ahead of his appearance at Afropunk this weekend.READ the article