Hollow & Akimbo: Hollow & Akimbo

Hollow & Akimbo's debut is made up of big-sound production, layers of texture and indistinct instrumentation arriving in waves of color, the melodies often crashing into heavily percussive pandemonium before reassembling themselves from the din.

Hollow & Akimbo

Hollow & Akimbo

Label: Quite Scientific
US Release Date: 2014-02-11
UK Release Date: 2014-02-11

Hollow & Akimbo’s eponymous album comes out of the speakers like a different dimension crashing against or seeping into ours. To put it succinctly, the LP from the Ann Arbor, Michigan, duo of Jonathan Visger and Brian Konicek is one of the most ambitious and confident records to yet emerge in 2014. The fact it is their debut is all the more confounding. Laden with hooks and catchy refrains that narrowly sidestep being overwhelming, the album worms its way into your consciousness and plants a germ there that spreads like a candy-coated contagion. That’s not to say it’s an overly syrupy affair; on the contrary, the band takes electronic pop and mixes it with the experimentation of prog rock and intricate guitar work, resulting in a soundtrack to a sci-fi mind trip. Big-sound production, layers of texture and indistinct instrumentation arrive in waves of color, the melodies often crashing into heavily percussive pandemonium before reassembling themselves from the din.

The first three songs establish the band’s aesthetic and, collectively, the trio stands as the album’s highlight. “Trunk of a Dead Tree” starts with shimmering atmospherics, joined by a bouncy, rubber band flicking bass line, jangly guitar loops and cooing vocals from Visger delivering some pointed, kiss-off lyrics. As it builds, the listener is baited to expect a powerful payoff, and the tune delivers, the drums ratcheting it up as the album’s first singalong chorus emerges — “All those sirens break the silence / All those gawkers stare / I’d be fine just living life in the trunk of a dead tree / Trunk of a dead tree.” Come the bridge, the various instruments spiral out in all directions, anchored by that thick bass, before coalescing again for a final appearance of the refrain. On its heels comes “Singularity”, starting ominously with vibrating menace before segueing into a groovy grandeur that veers into Passion Pit territory, specifically in the vocals on the chorus. Rather than go bombastic in the bridge, the tune zeroes in with some sparse piano notes beneath Visger’s forlorn singing. Like a tube squeezed at one end, the minimalism’s proportionate response arrives in the outro, a dinosaur stomping aural pastiche asserting itself.

Out of this opening three-part salvo, “Fever Dreams” arises as the crown jewel. A barrage of clamorous percussion and Konicek’s squealing guitar parts establish the hallucinogenic vibe, rife with the foreboding that comes with the vivid reveries that accompany a night of battling illness with NyQuil. “I’m just an ocean / An aromatic pool,” Visger sings, his voice floating out through a haze of psychedelia. A breakdown of prodigious drums, guitar solos and sparking synths blend into a light piano melody, seemingly symbolizing one’s awakening from a nightmare.

“Still Life” slows things down and works as a breathing period and palate cleanser. Falsetto yearning over stark music defines it, though yet again it abruptly shifts into tumultuous drumming in the last third. The more subdued approach continues with the next few songs, “Door to Another World” notable for its whimsical tone and reflective notions of urban alienation. Unfortunately, the cuts least likely to remain in your mind arrive in this stretch, tunes like “Molecule” and “Lucky Stars” failing to distinguish themselves from the successes found elsewhere on the record. On the plus side, the jaunty rhythm and impressionistic lyrics of “The One Who Has to Carry You Home” offer enough intrigue to suck you in, and the midtempo “Did You Lie?” is a slow burning slice of sultriness, a sweet vocal melody belying the lyrics’ venomous content of schadenfreude putdowns. “Instead of a Head” wraps the record with a feeling of resolution, though it works primarily due to its place as the closer and doesn’t particularly standout on its own merit.

Perhaps what makes Hollow & Akimbo work so well is that it in many ways it is a stew of influences. Flashes of the Flaming Lips, the aforementioned Passion Pit, the Shins, and Radiohead are evident throughout, but the mixture is so distinctive that these recognitions are checkpoints more than distracting imitations. The vocals of “The One Who Has to Carry You Home” bear shades of James Mercer, and “Fever Dreams” is in the tradition of Thom Yorke and crew — though is decidedly more fun than their brand of art — yet perceiving this only indicates Hollow & Akimbo are informed by these references and are progressing from them, rather than being dominated by them. Only occasionally do the songs sound derivative, “Door to Another World” being one of these scarce examples, as it could be mistaken for a song by fellow Michigan indie popsters Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Minor flaws aside, Hollow & Akimbo is one of the brightest recent debuts, demanding repeated listens to grasp the subtleties hidden behind all that is going on up front. It’s electronic pop for guitar rockers, and guitar rock for electronic pop fans.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.