Fire Note Says: Academy Songs Volume 1 is a record you are certain to keep coming back to.
Album Review: Certain records make you keep coming back to them, even when at first you aren’t really sure why. They aren’t necessarily catchy at first, but there’s something bubbling just under the surface that keeps you interested and makes you come back. With Academy Songs Volume 1, it was the drumming on “Golden Sparklers” that kept pulling me back. The drumming perfectly encapsulates the nostalgic feeling of the song, is it a remembrance of some great triumph, or the signaling of the end of a chapter? I’m still not entirely sure, perhaps that’s the magic of it, maybe it’s both. It’s been a number of years since Holopaw’s last record 2009’s Oh Glory. Oh Wilderness., and even longer since I heard 2005’s Quit +/ Fight, which was one of the more underrated records of the year back then, so I was pretty keen to give the new one a go.
John Oth’s songs are incredibly cinematic in a way that only a few of his peers are; two bands who immediately come to mind are Shearwater and Okkervil River. Admittedly that’s some pretty good company to keep. Like those bands, Holopaw’s songs unfold in front of you in a way that almost makes you see and feel them. While not a concept record, Academy Songs Volume 1 is more of a collection of songs inspired by the past, than necessarily about the past. While press notes indicate that the songs are about going to an all-boys private school, I personally got the feeling that the themes of maturing and gaining wisdom as we age can be applied to everyone, no matter what the backdrop of the plot. It’s a record about looking back at our past and realizing how far we have come and what we learned in the journey, more so than just being a coming of age record. Tracks like “We Are the Virgin Snow” would seem to indicate this as well. As young adults, we feel like we are treading through areas which no one has ever tred upon, but looking back, we realize that everyone treads through that path, it’s not the snow on the ground that’s virgin, it’s us that are virgin. We were pure, but as the journey continues, we begin to be less so, until we barely look like the virgin snow any longer, though we are still that same snow, just dirtied.
With Academy Songs Volume 1, Holopaw has delivered a wonderful nostalgic look back at our past, and also takes us back down the roads that lead directly to where we are standing today. Here’s hoping that as the title implies, that there is an Academy Songs Volume 2!
Key Tracks: “Golden Sparklers”, “We are the Virgin Snow”, “The Lights From the Disco”
Artists With Similar Fire: Okkervil River / Shearwater / Lambchop
-Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter