Music

Holopaw: Quit +/Or Fight

Michael Metivier

A quick fix of shimmery weirdness for Florida's second-most famous kinda-folk band recorded for a label on the opposite end of the lower 48, and a sophomore release that trumps the debut.


Holopaw

Quit +/Or Fight

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2005-08-09
UK Release Date: 2005-08-22
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

I don't usually go in for pulling quotes for record reviews, but Holopaw's Michael Johnson offers a priceless description of his band: "A queer, a Peruvian, a redneck, a burnout, and an asshole walk into a bar..." Besides my assumption that Tobi Echevarria is most likely to be the Peruvian, I don't know who else is which. But only a few songs into their second Sub Pop release, Quit +/Or Fight, it's clear that asshole or not, each is a purveyor of disarmingly unique folk-pop. It's a record that asks you politely for the trendy "freak folk" label only to tear it to shreds with the cutest bear claws you ever did see.

It's not that Holopaw doesn't have freakish elements; for one, frontman John Orth sounds like he's singing into an oscillating fan. But rather that trotting out its eccentricities for glory and brownie point cred, the band wears them close and plays them down. Let's put it this way: Orth's quaver is not a result of affected drama queendom, but his actual instrument. One minute he's kicking out the quasi-jams on "3-shy-cubs" and the next he's all high and girlie-style on the exquisite "Curious". You'll have to look to other reviews to find lyric analysis and subject matter discussion; I have no freaking idea what any of these songs are about after a month's listening. But that fact does not diminish the experience. Like R.E.M.'s vaunted Murmur, these songs are most adept at creating worlds for the listener to enter and engage, which may be different with every spin. It's possible that some intense ear-to-speaker study sessions might eventually yield the stories of Quit, but I'm happy enough to listen to "Curious" upwards of seven times in a row. Orth's fairy tale melody trips lightly over cello and woodwinds and I'm sold.

Similarly, opener "Losing Light" has a gentle insistence in its tone and rhythm that is instantly winning. When a band of five members, plus guest musicians, makes this quiet a sound, you know that every note they play should be planned an essential. And for the most part this holds true for Holopaw. There is no fat on Quit; the songs barely average three minutes in length, and only because the last track, "Ghosties" is pushing the epic five-minute mark. Most of the time, the songs blip by and trail away like smoke. Johnson's urgent tom-work on "Losing Light" is barely enough to tether it to the firmament. Every other instrumental color, from vibes and keyboards to guitar, flutters around the beat in hypnotic patterns. It's more of an elliptical snapshot of atmosphere than a traditional song, but it works for its own sake at the same time distinguishing itself from its Sub Pop peers. While the band's debut had a distinct country edge to it, Quit has less identifiable touchstones. Johnson describes the evolution as "traditional elements becoming weirder and the weirder elements more traditional", which makes sense. The instrumentation constantly plays against type, and the poppy song structures bob and weave with little predictability.

Apparently, according to several little birds, "Velveteen (All is bright.)" is about reindeer miscalculating their yearly flight and crashing into Lake Superior. I never barely guessed that if I hadn't been tipped off, but the story is there under layers of fuzz bass and a very concerned Orth singing the word "peppermint" with a yearning usually reserved for the spouses of garlic lovers. But that tragic tale is told straight-faced and ends up oddly moving, another example of Holopaw's ability to skew the familiar and make it somehow even more familiar, or at least just as welcome.

7

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
6

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
Theatre

​'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
10

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
7

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
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image