The car's passenger ejected the Holopaw CD abruptly, replacing it with a crunchier, less emotive selection. "That was boring," he said. "Who would want to listen to that?" Had this fellow spent some time alone with the music, he might have had a different response: Holopaw's quiet atmospherics are shaped by indie/alt-country strains, lingering pedal-steel sounds and fragile lyrics finely wrought by songwriter John Orth and his four colleagues. Whimsical at times, achingly earnest at others, it's music that girls listen to while they write in their journals -- and that's not a bad thing at all.
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Holopaw was "discovered" in Gainesville, Florida, by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, who facilitated the recording of the band's demo and then delivered it to the fine folks at Sub Pop. (Brock also contributes vocals and mandolin to "Igloo Glass" and "Pony Apprehension," respectively.) The final product is a complex, layered accumulation of heartbreaking and thought-provoking songs as varied and mysterious as the Deep South itself. On "Abraham Lincoln," Orth's voice makes yearning tangible, while electronic bleeps, steel guitar and barely audible thumps swirl around his simple, unaffected delivery. Later, an ethereal, Air-worthy keyboard sets the mood on "Hoover," a dreamy paean to the West that describes a boy making shadow-puppet horses -- Appaloosas, palominos, dapple grays -- against the Hoover Dam.
Holopaw's eponymous debut might not be suitable for bopping around town with your best mates. But those in search of a soundtrack for precious alone time can't do better than this.