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Quit +/Or Fight

Quit +/Or Fight
(Sub Pop)

Holopaw's first self-titled album was mainly the work of a couple fellows. One of them was John Orth, who helped pen some tunes with Isaac Brock as part of the Ugly Cassanova project. For their second release, the group incorporated several other people, yet rather than getting louder or changing their style a great deal, they continued down their path of slightly skewed country music. Although the title of their newest release is Quit +/Or Fight, they're not really that combative. In fact, despite having five members, the M.O. of the group seems to be understatement.

That said, understatement is not a bad thing at all. The members seem to work together like a well-tuned machine, using subtle change after subtle change to their advantage. I imagine that if they let themselves get stuck in a rut, the album wouldn't be nearly engaging, but at eleven tracks and just over thirty minutes it feels like a fresh breath of air. "Losing Light" opens the release with just over two minutes of warm guitar, vocals from Orth, and soft percussion while bass and synth add some subtle tones. "3-Shy-Cubs" mixes electric piano, handclaps, and kitchen-sink percussion into an endearing track that really makes little sense lyrically (like many tracks), but paints an evocative picture with quick changes and a glorious finale.

As mentioned before, the group really seems to know its place in terms of instrumentation. There are a few places where the instrumentation gets a bit more dense, but for the most part the players all hang back and add their parts, then really shine when its their turn to step to the front of the mix. One of the cohesive elements of all tracks is the warm, warbly croon of Orth, who seems to hold everything together with his often multi-tracked vocals. Imagine a highly narcotic Shins with even more subtle instrumentation and you're getting somewhere close.

There are plenty of standouts on the short album, but tracks like "Holiday" and "Shiver Me" stand out especially with their lush mix of instrumentation and melodic flourishes. The former is a shorter track that mixes blissful pedal steel and shimmering synths before bursting into a lovely close, while the latter closes out the album with an almost deceivingly bland intro before dropping off into an atmospheric and touching second half. Quit +/Or Fight is an album that wasn't even on my radar just before it came out, but has since burrowed safely into my consciousness and will likely end up on my list of favorite releases for the year.

Rating: 8.25