Review Summary: A beautiful sadness.
I have yet to see a review for Port St. Willow's Holiday
that hasn't used The Antlers' Hospice
as a reference point when describing the overall sound of the album. This review will be no different, but there are a few reasons it's an apt comparison. First of all, Holiday
is the creation of one man--Nick Principe--who also happens to share an eerily similar falsetto register with Peter Silberman. On top of that, Silberman and Principe are childhood friends who have collaborated on music in the past. But above all of that, even before I had seen a single review for the album, it struck me how sonically similar the albums are the first time I heard it.
It starts right from the beginning of the album, with the distorted opener "Two Five Five Two", which melts right into the following track, "Hollow"--similar to how "Prologue" merges into "Kettering". A low drone opens "Hollow", which begins to fill with the sound of drums that seem to be coming from some far off place, before finally giving way to Prinicpe's voice shortly after. It's at that moment that making a Hospice
connection is unavoidable. However, I should also add that simply making that single comparison isn't fair to Princpe, who fleshes out his songs with an ambiance comparable Grouper, while still bringing something unique and wholly his own to the album. The best example of this is the album standout "Amawalk", which shows just what an effective weapon his voice is in its own right, while combining his ambient soundscapes with his skill at instrumentation, even bringing horns into the closing section of the track.
It feels weird to call a song a standout track on an album that's meant to be listened to as a whole instead of separate parts, as Holiday
is obviously meant to be. Each track morphs directly into the next, almost all of them beginning and ending with the same distorted hiss, one that helps tie the entire album together. Yet at no point does it ever feel like you're listening to the same song for an hour, as albums like this can tend to do. And it is
possible to point to standout tracks, even if it doesn't have anything as drastically different or radio-ready as "Bear" or "Two". "Orphan" starts with a drumbeat that moves like a funeral procession, adding an echo-effect to Principe's voice that gives it an otherworldly quality, eventually building into something bigger before quieting down as it closes out. "North" employs the horns once again, although much more subdued than on "Amawalk". "On Your Side", while mainly relying on a slow organ that holds the same note throughout, is perfectly accompanied by Principe's voice.
Understand that when I make comparisons to Hospice
, I mean that as a high compliment, as it's one of my favorite albums of the last decade. But one last difference between the two is that Holiday
doesn't tell a story, and it isn't a concept album. Lyrically, the songs often deal with heartbreak and loss, while keeping things oblique enough to keep you wondering what exactly inspired the album. It's not something meant to be put on for background noise, it's an album that demands full attention. It's should also preferably be listened to through a pair of headphones, as you try to figure out what exactly the lyrics are trying to say while admiring the beauty of the sounds that give them added weight. And most of all, it's an album that gives a lot of hope for what Principe is capable of in the future.