Release Date: Jan 28, 11
The Brooklyn-based group HolidayHoliday just released the two-track LP AllOneWord (a literary pun or the product of frustration for constantly having to clarify their un-spaced band name? We may never know.). This is their third release since the retro soul group’s birth in 2008.
A minimalist band of sorts, Holiday’s melodies are formed through the barroom stomp of a piano being held to count by a simple yet sturdy thump of a drumbeat; which together hoist up the vintage vocals of Lillian Ruiz. With Ruiz painting her flowery voice over the raucous canvas created by Matt Swope (piano) and Graham Bishop (percussion) – along with the occasional shout chorus – the group’s sound conjures up images of rowdy burlesque shows on Bourbon St. in the 50s.
The LP starts with the track “Hanged”: a fast-paced ditty that could be confused with a young Diana Ross singing at a piano bar, or a less crack-addicted Amy Winehouse as a member of The Marvelettes. “Hanged” has the ability to capture your ear and serve as the dangling carrot enticing you to the next track. In “Lu Rae”, the tempo slows down and grooves into a dimmed reflection of early Motown doo-wop. Ruiz showcases the depth of her voice in this song, portraying emotion through inflection as she strides through the lyrics.
The LP is a satisfying appetizer but to find whether Holiday had enough to make it a meal or not, their past releases had to be explored:
After one strolls through Holiday’s discography (the complete discography is available on their website: HolidayHoliday) it becomes clear that they have a great ability to create something genuine and new but that’s still pop oriented with catchy hooks. Across all three of their albums, Holiday teeter-totters between haphazard simplicity and careful construction. This dichotomy is, in my mind, the result of trying to balance a minimalist dynamic with the well-versed talents of the group. They are conflicting goals and, as a result the songs are, at times, slightly unnatural sounding. Also, the tracks tend to get repetitive, and, even amidst plentiful talent, the lack of variety can cause one to lose interest.
Holiday features a refreshing change of pace on their album Marcata with a guitar and bass making contributions in “Every Time I Look at You…”. But these small changes proved to be the only short departure across all three albums from the band’s defining ingredients of piano, vocals and drums.
At their worst, Holiday emits the vibe of a group emerging from a pool of talent but trying (ostensibly a little too hard) to find a cool way to express what a lifetime of formal music lessons has taught them. They sound well-rehearsed, but at times maybe a little too perfect. As they try to juggle an antiquated sound with remastered audio and unfaltering precision, Holiday loses some of that raw human element that makes other minimalist bands so great, resulting in slightly contrived sounding tracks.
On the other hand, the group is modest in the little windows they provide of themselves online. But, they can afford to be. They’re a group sitting on a mountain of merchantable talent that, given the chance, could find widespread popularity. And that recognition would come a lot quicker if they found just a couple ways to add some variation and embrace their own direction.