Review Summary: A very promising debut from a band that has a good sense of orientation.
Week x of Month y saw me with a recurring disposition for browsing purevolume, particularly for new post hardcore to add to my collection. A few pulled strings and some sloppy page-plowing later, I had one of my first catches: a quartet "Holiday Unheard Of" tagged under Indie/Rock/Experimental. Indeed, despite recently topping purevolume charts and establishing themselves as an accessible find for teenage listeners, Holiday Unheard Of remained a band unheard of, and while not on a completely obscure level, the band had garnered little to no critical appraise amongst music fans and reviewers regardless. But let me swiftly get to the reason why: “Carta Marina”, their EP released this year, is their first EP. It also happens to be their first official recording ever.
Conceived in 2007, “Holiday Unheard Of” is the collective effort of Jared, Keegan, Keaton and Nick hailing from, Portland, Oregon who have spearheaded into a deal with Standby Records. Even after various setbacks, “Carta Marina” had a lot to offer for me as a listener, being both a fun, anthemic album on the surface, but also pillaring on Indie and Math Rock roots which deeply enriched the listening process. Blurring the lines of primarily alternative in addition to, as mentioned afore, post hardcore and indie rock, you could probably tell that Holiday Unheard Of are never going to be a big chase for publicity simply because their sound borrows from other genres without actually being in conformity to conventional songwriting. In theory, they would live more under the shadow of bands such as The Fall of Troy, and The Sounds of Animals Fighting, combining the overall allure and technicality of the former band and the ethereal facets of the latter. With this in account, Holiday Unheard Of have thus far been successful as no direct comparisons can be drawn between them and said bands.
Already, “Carta Marina” deals with the many historical evocations of its name, but renders this notion of “map of the sea” in a very modern and affluent way. Significantly, the EP can easily be perceived as poppy and airy at first spin or two, but there is an almost aquatic undertone to the overall sound, given the various math rock passages, and the multiple strumming of single, high notes. The record obviously has its catchy attributes, such as none other than Jared’s youthful vocals, which teeter somewhat between high and low-pitch, remaining steadfast both in articulation and devoid of any unusual jolts in pronunciation (which some may find unfortunate). You will find, when all is said and done, that in spite of the many crescendos found in his singing, Jared navigates back to his comfort zone; a soulful mid-pitched vocal which is reminiscent of that of typical pop-punk but which has enough reverberation to pass off as a contemporary indie rock-esque tone.
Throughout the 7 songs found on the EP, the band will take simple pop punk and post hardcore instrumentation and layer it with a good chunk of replay value. Most of this comes from the dynamism in the songs, and the gradual build-up of passages, which even after several spins will still feel assertive and fresh in the ears of the listener. A song like “Painting The White Elephant” will start off with a grandiose piano section with a massive vocal line from Jared, and will then be substituted by a lick and staccato bassline, which is played over until it gives way for a power chord, while songs like “At The Back Door” and “The Chaser” grace the EP with a more straight-forward rendition of pop punk/alternative, and are probably the most forgettable. The songs are fun in their own way, but they mainly take brute post hardcore virtues and harmonize them to soften the dissonant qualities.
Most of the band shines however in “Greater Calling”, one of the highlights of the album, where an almost barroom indie-like tune is layered with the bands own contemporary sound. Starting off with a bittersweet math-rock type melody in the 2nd quarter of the song, it leads into a general undercurrent that seems a homogenization of dissonance and power chords. The most compelling climax on the EP, and probably the best musical moment in this song is reached when Jared sings “His lungs empty, and he can breathe again” while the band goes full throttle on their instruments. However it’s not until “And His Face Lit Up Blue” fills your speakers that you’ll see the bands full potential put to some serious work. This song is seriously perfect. It’s an astounding blend of math rock-pervaded ambiance, and bass-driven guitar interplay. Equally, it features amazing harmonies to Jared’s singing and screaming, as well as the most notable performance on the EP for Nick’s drumming.
Carta Marina sinks into “The Minor Fall”; a fade-in outro from “And His Face Lit Up Blue” and the cathartic end to the EP. Before I get caught up in the cliché, and begin to spill my now insipid words into this paragraph, I’d like to conclude that “Holiday Unheard Of” is a guilty pleasure that has come as a result of repeated listens. It is one that I misconceived as being shallow because of certain inherent qualities, but have come to appreciate as perhaps not the most honest record, but definitely one of the most emotionally intriguing. The album obviously has its downsides and that is, sometimes the band overall doesn’t experiment enough with tempo changes and dynamics per se to make the listener want to start throwing around chairs, or in other words, to get a bit of everything. All in all, aside from the context of a music scene, these young dudes are actually in it to fulfill their musical dream, and that’s the silver lining. As for now, I’ll stay excited by the prospect of a future release from these guys.
- And His Face Lit Up Blue
- Greater Calling
- Golden Strand