Holopaw have created a gently brave and singular experience with Academy Songs, Volume 1. And, like the best world-creators on film, Holopaw have built a world for listeners to fall into. The enveloping nature of Academy Songs is one of its standout attributes, mostly because the band have crafted it with an effort that comes from a recording method that was rooted in experience and exposure.
Holopaw’s front man John Orth has a lyrical confidence that pairs perfectly with his controlled delivery. His work along side Isaac Brock with Ugly Casanova subtly reveals itself throughout the course of Academy Songs. Thankfully, it blends smoothly with other characteristics that give Holopaw a crucial and defining sound. I’ve yet to investigate the band’s previous releases but this is the kind of album that wants you to hear where it came from.
Academy Songs is a chronicle of an all boys prep school and the lives within it. Orth and company are more than cartographers here, beautifully shading each emotional peak and valley with vocal and instrumental colours that are both warm and vivid. Thus, Academy Songs captures the spectrum of life within and without walls.
"Academy" is an explosive opener powered by a rolling and thriving percussive statement. Triumphant guitars and tings emerge with Orth exclaiming "Oh the Earth shall tremble, oh the Earth shall shake". As the album progresses Holopaw draw parallel lines of darkness and grace that edge ever closer until the closing notes of “Golden Years”. Songs like “Discotheque” explore loneliness and all of its stark realities.
"Golden Years" is a standout track that embraces the cyclical nature of concept album lyrics. Narrative albums often suffer from these looping phrases but Orth wields them here like a master. It is a helpful track to the story but also one that embodies the sounds of the entire album.
Academy Songs is an album that you live within for its duration, becoming one with its tones and settings. It is revelatory and rewarding. It is a collection of songs I want to lay with in a room filled with close friends and I haven’t done that in ages.