Holiday Murrayby Nadine Theron / 06.05.2011
Amongst the flags fairy lights and retro artefacts, Holiday Murray introduced their debut album at Frieda’s; embracing the lucky few in a glowing ambience, the enchantment reminiscent of Beirut’s “Elephant Gun” video. A rich cream of Cape Town’s cool was spread thick over the affair. The show started with a screening of the video for their single, “Jirey”, and soon, to avoid suffocating in the overwhelming glorification of aesthetic appeal, I had to go outside for air.
The actual music part of the music-video unfortunately could not escape the same fate, the Hipster Westlife flashes on the screen; boys in white riding bikes in the sunshine down tree-lined avenues in the top tourist destination in the world, then wrapped in colourful flapping rags becoming hipster hippies. The delightful CD sleeve design proves why the same destination was nominated as international design capital of 2012: Pastel, darling illustrations, feathers, coffee stains… the simple white disc nestled in recyclable cork and egg carton between sheaves of mystical diagrams and hand-written lyrics and (always a winner) retro pictures of the sea and mountains. Oh Nostalgia, you get us every time. But this is no Instagram creation, Thomas Pepler’s design truly captures the folky feel of Holiday Murray.
Here we should pause and lament the necessity of above two paragraphs, that well-executed packaging these days arouses suspicion: What are they compensating for? One fears another over-designed band concept selling like gourmet cupcakes, gobs of glittering bright icing disguising a tasteless bake.
Attractive CD sleeve, attractive fans, attractive launch party, attractive Beach Boys attire… Holiday Murray should be really grateful that they aren’t a foursome of classically pretty boys. What with all the attractiveness around them, it would be hard to look beyond the aesthetics – and lo’ there is so much more once your obligatory anti-hipster pride is swallowed and prejudice thrust aside.
Folk it is; Crosby, Stills and Nash it is not. It’s Vampire Weekend with Kooks’ vocals, Bat for Lashes’ magic and, regrettably, New Holland moments (unavoidable since the band is managed and the album was recorded by TeeJay Terre’blance.) I have to emphasise that the The Kooks reference refers only to the vocals and the vocals alone, possibly this is because James Tuft can actually carry a melody and stay in tune, a pop characteristic which falls sweetly on the ear.
At first the fact that you don’t notice the jump between the first and second song disappoints but then the way the tracks flow into each other becomes pleasing. The self-titled album is the modern-day rarity of a cohesive debut album, one that could, should and will be listened to – this must be applauded. The first few songs build toward the Murrays’ current hit single and then… Surprise! One is tricked out of the temptation to lose interest in the last four songs which turn out to be the most substantial part of the album.
“Homeless and Happy” drags you down and raises an eyebrow for anyone who knows that Holiday Murray members are not exactly impoverished, it’s highly possible that the intended meaning of this song isn’t clear but besides the lack of the lyrics’ ability to conjure emotions, musically it drags and lags and the dwindling guitar makes it the boring song you will want to skip on an otherwise very complete album.
“Fantasy The Woods” with haunting vocals is so Bat for Lashes, maybe also because both bands ride bikes in their first music videos although BFL’s Natasha Kahn does so through the woods. “Nested” is quirky and filled with folky folly where a Crosby, Stills and Nash influence is actually recognisable. It wouldn’t be surprising if “Antagonizer” is the second single, seems a justifiable choice as the Use Somebody/Epic Love Song of the album. The song is musically immersive and you’ll find yourself mouthing “Nobody escapes me like you do” while hurriedly looking around for a you that would complete the picture, temporarily, for the duration of the song. “The Sea Finds Me” and “Be a Bird” with its ‘hidden’ cute drumming end doesn’t sound like Devendra Banhart at all but has his titles, atmosphere and most importantly, heart.
Holiday Murray know what they want to work on and if they focus on that, like they intend to, their next one could earn them that succesful second album status. The band members themselves said they would likes less “dah-dah-dah” in their songs, and it’s very clear what they mean. It’s the “dah-dah-dah” which ever so slightly pushes some songs into the grey of monotony now and then. Apart from the many other musical subtleties, they have done one major thing right: Not blatantly sounding like a particular international act. One can’t help but wonder though what other delightful offerings SA could deliver musically if everyone had parent-on-draught to keep them from being poisoned by activities other than music.