Review Summary: It's an album that won't leave you feeling hollow
The first time I truly “listened” to The Hollows
(as in kept my complete and utter focus on it) was on a misty, dreary morning walk with opaque skies and dreary clouds creating a sheet of sleek, gray apathy from nature. In essence it was the perfect time to listen to it. The type of weather just clicked with it.
The musical landscape as of late seems to be dominated by the tightly engineered sonic craft of the The 20/20 Experience
, an album so rewarding with its junction of slick, mainstream pop appeal and longer, more progressive experimenting with the new pop sound. If The 20/20 Experience
is the mainstream hit of the year, then The Hollows
by up and coming artist Tyler Brown is the independent equipoise, filled with just as many layers but having a more spacious, relaxing atmosphere about it. Its indie/R&B-styled contemplative jams on diametrically opposing wavelengths from 20/20.
Yet it is completely unfair to compare this to Justin Timberlake in any sort of way though, considering one is an up-and-coming artist and one has already been on the public forefront for a little over a decade. The quote on Brown’s band camp page says “entirely organic debut album” and it shows. The Hollows
sheds any potential manufactured sheen that it could ever hypothetically have and lets the musicality of his voice and the quality of the songwriting shine through.
The strengths of this album lie particularly in Brown’s confidence within each piece of music. Never does his voice falter or the music cut short awkwardly. Everything sounds full and rich with new territory explored on each listen. The instrumentation comes with a full package. Acoustic guitar gets sprinkled over big drum sounds and a large, memorable chorus on “Weekend (Un Beso)” that just wails soulfully and sends a big rush through the body the first time it pops up. “Loverneverlearned” lays out some stripped-down strumming on a downbeat melody with dysphoric vocal work. The sonic palette with which Brown works sounds like a devilishly adept coalescence of Nick Drake and Bon Iver whilst providing his own unique touch on things. Even then, pieces like “Skelaxin (Oh, Ira)” maintain an upbeat, hopeful quality about them, creating a nice dynamic between the more uplifting songwriting and the darker, more melancholic material.
really does have an interesting dynamic going for it, one that is not so black and white in tone but much more steeped in grayscale. The songs tend to alternate between downtrodden and sanguine diapasons, mixing together to create this gray area, something akin to a defeated failure rising up from the ashes of wallowing and self-pity and taking a positive, promising path filled with hopes and desires. This is existentialist, life-affirming music for the soul.
What ties these areas of gray in with the powerful songwriting and the musicality of each production is the self-assurance of Tyler Brown himself. This is a musician fully confident in the idea that his work stands out from the rest of the crowd. That he can differentiate himself from the pack of endless DIY imitators with a laptop, a recorder, and a few chords learned on a guitar. That his voice can project and enrich the music without ever breaking a sweat and slipping through the cracks. The Hollows
is probably one of the most courageous, cocksure records to slide its way into the fabric of music in 2013, and it’s absolutely lovable. The audaciousness it upholds affects the listener (well me) in a way like never before.
It truly is a moving album with a pool of emotions to be dabbled in. As I listened to it I experienced emotional turmoil, with feelings of anxiety, regret, melancholy, happiness, hope, and optimism all flowing through me at once. Only truly great masterpieces can have this kind of effect on a listener. It becomes a mellowed out walk through the forest, where one can be alone and think about all of the past decisions they have made and their lives up to this point. Or it can become something that will make someone smile profoundly, and reaffirm their spirits as they look towards the future. It’s a record that can make someone reflective of the past or make them await the prospects of the future with impeccable foresight. The Hollows
is everything you could ever want something of its caliber to be emotionally, and that’s fantastic.
If any criticism could be made of the record, it’s that it sometimes (but rarely) feels like a rookie album. Even though it is a first album, for the most part it sounds like an excellent third or fourth record in an artist’s catalog, but there are little moments where things get same-y and derivative of each other. Although consistency is important an album, here it tends to drag on near the end because of the repetition. Apart from this one minor quibble, it is a nearly flawless album.
has a stand as an early contender for one of the best albums of the year plain and simple. It’s an almost perfect mood album, weather album, and just a plain out good record. Tyler Brown is well on his way to greater things in the music world.