Almost a month after they released their latest single, Frida, Melbourne duo HOLY HOLY made up of guitarist Oscar Dawson and vocalist Timothy Carroll are back with their new album, My Own Pool of Light.
The album kicks off with Maybe You Know, a funky track to set the experimental tone for the album. With a mix of melancholic and thoughtful lyrics—“I don’t want to die wondering why”—and almost cheery pop sounds, Maybe You Know is a good start to the album. It’s a light take on a heavy issue of depression and suicide, a personal issue to the band.
Faces has received big spins on Triple J since its release and is already well-loved by fans. The track is pushed along with strong momentum and looped vocals. Its catchiness comes from the amalgamation of loops and rhythms layered on top of each other to create something that rings around in your head.
A slower track, Flight comes next. Flight was informed by Carroll’s previous profession as a social worker in the area of refugee settlement. It builds in layers and momentum as the song progresses, but succeeds in showing a different side to the band—one that has been heard in previous album tracks—that steps away from upbeat indie-pop numbers.
A few tracks later is Paces #1, a more experimental track. The band uses repetition in the lyrics to create a pattern that works with the layers of the songs, “I don’t want to make you different / I don’t want to make you lie / I don’t want to make you love me / I don’t want to make right”.
People is one of my favourite tracks from the new album, and also where the album name comes from. The song matches the upbeat tone of the earlier songs with punchy keys pushing the track along. It features thoughtful and thought-provoking lyrics, like the opening verse “people clinging to debris / this sinking ship is dead to me / the black box holds a symphony / crying violins at sea”. The band whistles a couple of times throughout the track, it’s an eerie noise that adds something special to People,
Teach Me About Dying is another one of the singles HOLY HOLY released before the album. It’s a reflection on negative situations and how to learn from them and make them into something positive, “teach me about dying so I can learn how to live”. Along with the pulsating synths, upbeat drum and funky guitar riff, TMAD has a chant nature to the song that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
Hatswing starts with the same energy as Teach Me About Dying but delves into a different musically path. It’s followed by (10), the angelic and light interlude track.
HOLY HOLY’s most recent single, Frida, is named after Carroll’s daughter. It’s a touching, reflective yet critical look at gender roles and stereotypes in our society. “Frida’ examines the experience of raising a girl in a world that constantly leaves her out of the story,” Carroll told Triple J. It’s a track I found myself coming back to again and again. The poignant lyrics seemed to so perfectly nail things young girls had heard and experienced, “couldn’t be lost in the rain / couldn’t be wearing that again … couldn’t be walking back through parks and dark and late and all alone”. It’s the lyrics and the message that really drive this track home.
The album closes with St Petersburg, a mellow finish to the musical journey. It’s a beautiful and soft track that tugs at the heartstrings.
As I listened along for the first time, I found myself imagining a scene from a coming-of-age film; the album seemed to be the perfect soundtrack for something like that. I was overcome with the desire to put my headphones in and dramatically look out of a car window on my way to the impending doom of high school or something that fits the stereotypical plot of a CoA film.
As someone who avidly listened to the band’s previous albums, I thoroughly enjoyed My Own Pool of Light. Regardless of how different one track was from the other, there’s a moment in each song where something clicks and I found myself like ‘oh, I really like this one too’. The new album is a clear step in a different direction with the band playing and toying with new layers, fresh sounds and important ideas. It’s an undiluted representation of HOLY HOLY’s vision, strengthened by their decision to self-produce (most of) the album.
My Own Pool of Light is HOLY HOLY’s most ambitious album so far. It pushes a new sound for the band but also doesn’t stray too far from what we know and enjoy. The album was recorded across a myriad of locations, ranging from a shed on Carroll’s property in rural Tasmania to Dawson’s recording studio in Abbotsford. The band described the creation of each track as something “occurring in the moment”. They incorporated drum loops, sampled beats, ethereal sounds and bubbling synths, stripping themselves of their typical guitar-in-hand parameters.
Dawson explained they “wanted the album to have a drive to it and feel like it picks you up and pushes you along” and I’d say they’ve achieved just that.
My Own Pool of Light is out now.