An extremely varied and unique debut from an imaginative sibling duo.
Sibling groups are nothing new in the music world (although they’re becoming more popular, it seems). Whether built on falsehood and basic arrangements, like the White Stripes, or a shared passion for eclectic and complex musical insanity, like the Fiery Furnaces, the music is always special because of the familial bond underneath the surface. Case in point: Riverhood, the debut album by Holobody. Its tuneful expertise, ambitious production, and varied aesthetic make it quite a pleasant surprise.
Holobody consists of Saskatchewan, Canada natives Luke and Charlotte Loseth. Although they’re solo work under the pseudonyms of Felix Green and Sea Oleena, respectively, has brought them a lot of acclaim individually, they’ve been writing together since childhood. They describe Holobody as "two artists [who] merge their songwriting approaches, exploring their lifelong penchant for percussive experimentation and crafting infectious indie-pop that drifts between the ethereal and concrete." As their first official collaboration, Riverhood is sure to be another critical success in their blossoming career.
The true cleverness of Riverhood is in its transitions and diversity, and the opening three-track suite is a fantastic example of this. Arranged as "Unfold", "Hurricane Season", and "Stomp Coda", the result is a wonderful blend of sounds. It begins as an intricate jigsaw puzzle of poetry -- vocals climb over each other as lush synths provide a foundation. Soon, Charlotte and Luke intertwine hip-hop verses built upon vivid imagery and exceptional rhymes over dreamy choruses while sound samples and fragmented instrumentation fluctuate in blankets of sublime intrigue. Really, it feels like the mystic offspring of Beck’s debut period, specifically "Loser", and the brilliant arrangements and melodic sensibilities of Danielson and Sufjan Stevens. Even with its comparisons, this is an incredibly unique and joyous affair, and it alone warrants Riverhood some acclaim.
Elsewhere, the title track provides one of the album’s most endearing choruses as Luke’s smoky whisper is complemented by Charlotte’s angelic countermelodies. There’s a touch of Radiohead in how the electric piano appears occasionally with damning notes. The one-two punch of "Prelude" and "Procession" are fantastic as well. Charlotte recites more beautiful words as guitars, piano, and percussion bounce off each other in a hodgepodge of serenity. Eventually, it breaks into an elaborate instrumental full of arpeggios, strings, loops, and quirky noises. There’s a certain colorful optimism to Riverhood, and it’s arguably most apparent here, as the track feels like a lost cut from the earliest work of Porcupine Tree or Super Furry Animals’ masterpiece, Rings Around the World. "Michael" continues the vibe in a more straightforward but equally impressive way.
Holobody concludes the album with a cover of Alison Krauss’s "Down to the River to Pray", which continues the Christian overtones that the duo profess throughout the record although it’s never too forceful or polarizing, so they could be criticizing religion as much as they are promoting it. Either way, the earthly warmth of the lyrics will appeal to religious and nonreligious folks alike. Album closer "Acid Rain" feels like a culmination of everything it supersedes. It’s direct without being commercial and narrowly familiar without being inaccessible. It’s a great conclusion.
Above all else, Riverhood proves a theory many music aficionados agree on: the most affective, bold, and unique records of today are being made underground, where true artistic license and creativity aren’t hindered by the demands of success and industry. Holobody has crafted a surprising album full of delightful voices, enchanting descriptions, and best of all, wildly imaginative music. One can only hope that they continue the magic and receive plenty of praise in the years to come.