There are two main reasons you should check out Hollis Brown this summer. The first is that they have enough pop and soul to entertain; the second is how breezy, yet spirited, their playing is. As debuts go, you couldn’t ask more from these New York boys.
Ride on the Train isn’t too full of itself or too cocky, offering enough fun to go with the serious art of making music. ‘Down on Your Luck’ injects some blues fun, mixing classic rock with some Nashville heritage. The shimmy and shake of ‘Nothing & the Famous One’ is full of love and an the honest tinkle of piano, The Beatles clearly being a shared influence of all members.
They flick back and forth between the sweet, sunshine-soaked tunes and the gritty blues-rock with such ease. ‘Doghouse Blues’ has frontman Mike Montali growling lines like, “You ain’t been satisfied” with as much passion as the gently sung “Faith & Love”, which is filled with metaphors of failure. The variety is no more apparent than when the intimate picking and strumming of ‘If It Ain’t Me’ is brought to an end by the beefy riff of ‘Walk On Water’, a rock’n’roll song punching out politicians and the futility of war.
Hollis Brown aren’t the only band to hit on this kind of alt-counrty-pop-rock kind of combination. What gives them the edge is the lack of tension. This might sound like a bad thing on paper – especially when it worked so well for Delta Spirit – but in reality, it opens the music up and allows a summer wind to cool everything down.
The album isn’t complete perfection (see ‘When the Weather’s Warm’). They’ve held back in places and softened edges which will serve to play down expectations but allow them to build a future with the hope of surpassing their peers.