Laura Jane Grace
Hole In My Head


3.6
great

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
February 28th, 2024 | 22 replies


Release Date: 02/16/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fire with a touch of sunshine

Can you believe it’s already been a decade since Transgender Dysphoria Blues was released? It feels like only yesterday that Against Me! released their landmark sixth album, and their first following frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s gender transition. The record received a ton of fanfare upon release, and why wouldn’t it? Not only did it mark a return to form after a few middling releases, but it also served as both a beacon and a rallying cry for the LGBTQ+ community. Personally speaking: back then, as a college kid who was legitimately afraid to come out to my family and friends, this album was so important in granting me the courage to do so. Transgender Dysphoria Blues made me more comfortable with my identity and orientation, and I imagine the same was true for so many others who heard it back in 2014.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. After the slightly disappointing 2016 followup Shape Shift with Me, Against Me! decided to take an indefinite hiatus. The reason? Grace has cited COVID-19 as the main cause, but I think it’s also fair to say the band simply lost their momentum and wanted to focus on other projects. Does that mean Grace’s output ever slowed down? Hell no! If anything, the hiatus has given her free reign to focus on her solo work – which, so far, has largely stayed true to her folk-punk roots. With all of this in mind, where does her new outing Hole in My Head fit in the discog?

Well, for the most part, it’s about what you’d expect from a 2024 Laura Jane Grace record. Snappy guitar work, brisk tempos, and belligerent vocals are all here in spades, as Grace continues to explore themes of identity and dysphoria. Where it deviates from her usual style, however, is in its feel – which is to say that she adopts a more positive, self-assured tone on this one. Of course, that doesn’t mean her fire and hunger are gone entirely, as proven by the explosive opening title track. This tune is your classic Against Me!-style melo-punk anthem, reconciling intensely personal lyrics with rapid-fire power chords and brash drumwork. Yeah… that’s good stuff.

The second song is where the tonal shift really becomes apparent, though. “I’m Not a Cop”, despite its somewhat loaded title and imagery, strolls through your ears like a classic rock ‘n’ roll-era Beach Boys number. The fun backing vocals, the swingin’ rhythm, the jaunty tempo… there’s just something so breezy about the song, which also lends an air of sarcasm and irony to the lyrics once you do read them. But this type of uplifting vibe isn’t relegated to the faster cuts, as many of the acoustic folk-oriented tracks share a similar energy. “Cuffing Season” uses the classic phrase “what goes around comes around” as a call to action, as Grace optimistically encourages listeners to let go of their fears and take more chances. Meanwhile, highlight “Dysphoria Hoodie” takes the most personal and troubling imagery of the entire record – the song title says it all, really – and saddles it with the most hopeful, infectious acoustic guitar melodies Grace can muster up.

I don’t want you thinking this is any sort of radical invention for Grace, though. In fact, my biggest problem with Hold in My Head is that it could have gone further with these little deviations. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always room in my heart for another batch of anthemic LJG/Against Me! tunes. But Grace’s solo career is a prime opportunity for her to free herself of the band format and allow for more experimentation – on both a stylistic and lyrical level. The safest songs (barring the title track) are often the most disappointing ones, as proven by the dull Ramones rehash of “Birds Talk Too” or the monotonous light folk hum of “Keep Your Wheels Straight”. These tracks aren’t terrible, per se, but they feel like retreads of better songs from Grace’s back catalogue.

Still, at only 25 minutes, it’s not like there’s much time for filler on this thing. Hole in My Head is a highly enjoyable slice of folk-punk that gives us a slightly different side of Laura Jane Grace than we’re used to. The brashness, the vulgarity, the punkish attitude… it’s all here, but delivered with perhaps the most levity and reassurance we’ve gotten from a Grace project. The record can get a little too samey from time to time, but as the old quote goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Grace’s formula still works just fine, and with her main band currently on hold, this is the closest we’ll get to a new Against Me! record; that alone is cause for celebration.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Aw yeah, it's finally out! This one took a while, but I'm glad at how it turned out



TL;DR another great batch of catchy folk-punk tunes from LJG

bellovddd
February 28th 2024


6010 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

as always great review

Koris
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Thank you! :]

Colton
February 28th 2024


15302 Comments


this album art is atrocious lol

Koris
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

idk, I think it's fine

Valzentia
February 28th 2024


1411 Comments


of course the guy who gave Young Thug 5 stars is a hater

Colton
February 28th 2024


15302 Comments


Laura is cool it's just a lame cover

worth mentioning the Thugger album I 5'd has some of the best artwork ever

Koris
Staff Reviewer
February 29th 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Wouldn't say it's some of the best artwork ever, but it's definitely one of the best Thugger covers

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
February 29th 2024


1780 Comments


I must be living under a rock because I didn't even realize she was making solo albums. I'll have to check this out. Very nice review as always Koris!

Koris
Staff Reviewer
February 29th 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Thank you! Ngl, LJG's solo work had gone under my radar for some time as well. Glad I was able to catch this one though



In any case, if you're a fan of Against Me's folkier stuff, you should find something to enjoy here :]

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
February 29th 2024


32047 Comments


"Laura is cool it's just a lame cover"

Love the cover, you lame.

Great review master Koris.

onionbubs
February 29th 2024


21091 Comments


gotta give this a jam. have not liked any laura solo i've heard but love all pre 2016 against me so i'd certainly like to lol

Koris
Staff Reviewer
March 1st 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Thanks Dewi!



@Onion: I definitely prefer this one to Shape Shift With Me. Quality-wise, I'd put it in the realm of New Wave or Searching for a Former Clarity

onionbubs
March 1st 2024


21091 Comments


lowk opposite ends of my ranking haha searching is my fav against me and new wave is prob my 2nd worst. we'll see ig!

Koris
Staff Reviewer
March 1st 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Ah gotcha, they're both around a 3.5 for me. I think I enjoy New Wave more than a lot of people do, lol

goodsitebaduserbase
March 3rd 2024


253 Comments


there’s no such thing as being a “hater”, the picture is just generic

veninblazer
March 3rd 2024


16839 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

New Wave is good, but The Ocean is responsible for a whole half star alone

Koris
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Yeah, The Ocean is definitely one of the biggest highlights on there. It was also a big piece of lyrical foreshadowing, considering how much it hinted at LJG coming out

veninblazer
March 16th 2024


16839 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Love the acoustic side. "Cuffing Season" reminds me of "Two Coffins" holy shit

Koris
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2024


21170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

^ Yeah, that's easily my favrorite song on here now



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