Port St. Willow



by PorkchopExpress USER (38 Reviews)
July 5th, 2012 | 14 replies

Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

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.

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user ratings (21)

Comments:Add a Comment 
July 5th 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

Here's the Bandcamp page for those interested.


Staff Reviewer
July 5th 2012


What a fucking album. Glad to see a review of this.

Quickly, though, I would have possibly preferred it if you separated the album and discussed it on its own merits a bit more. I feel a little sorry for the guy in the fact that he's basically performing in the shade.

July 5th 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

You know, I tried--I really, really tried--to write a review where I didn't mention "Hospice" once, but I wasn't happy with it. So I went that route, but that's also why I tried to mention that it's not fair to completely compare the two. And I also mean what I said about that comparison being a high compliment (possibly the highest I could give), as this is easily my favorite Alt/Indie release of 2012 thus far, and I don't see it changing by the end of the year. In fact, this will probably be a 5 for me eventually.

July 5th 2012


Hah weird, I'm in the middle of listening to this now. I agree with you for the most part on this, not a bad review. Might have to listen to this over again though, I'm not sure how I feel about it.

July 6th 2012


Album Rating: 4.0

SO glad to see this reviewed thank you! album is f*cking amazing

July 6th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

great album, the cover art too

July 6th 2012


yeap, that must be good

I'm loving Hospice, but I'm kinda afraid of those comparisons though

Digging: Rob Mazurek Octet - Skull Sessions

July 6th 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

@Scissorlocked It's not comparable in every sense, it's just a good reference point for how the music itself sounds.

@Captain Glad to hear you feel that way

July 6th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

liked this on my first few listens a while ago, not sure how much though

July 6th 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

I actually had this for about a month before I gave it a review to make sure my opinion of it didn't cool off, but I still like it as much (if not more) as I did when I first got it.

August 8th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

jesus, 'amawalk' is a damn terrific track.

Contributing Reviewer
August 19th 2012


Great album, bout time.it got reviewed

Digging: Antiklesis - Antiklesis

August 26th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

i really enjoy some of these songs. the mellowness of the guitar in Hollow just gets me every damn time.

October 20th 2014


Album Rating: 3.5

Brian Eno likes this record and, hey, that's good enough for me!

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