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Holly "Letters From Lawndale" EP Review

Written by Carmen Mueller

Chicago based band, Holly will be releasing their new EP Letters From Lawndale on September 1st, and gratefully we got the chance to hear the record early. The band is made up of Rafe Soto (drums), Brandon Couture (guitar) and Tanner Bednar (vocals and guitar). What makes this group really fascinating is their ability to fuse modern rock and old school elements helps create a unique sound with a ton of charm.

Their track first track “Don’t You Break My Heart”, opens with strong horns and guitar, which is a musical choice that I adore, especially in rock music. Bednar’s voice has a real soulfulness that makes every song feel truly timeless. The progression of smooth to heavier guitars helps build this really sweet song into a rightful hit. Similarly, the song “Hold Back the Night” focuses on the horns to bring a lot of character and a jazz-esque quality to the track, along with strategically placed piano in the bridge.

A perfect example of the band taking whacky risks and actually having it work can be seen in “I’ll Have it All”. An old-timey commercial plays at the beginning which to be totally honest threw me off guard, but then it transitions into a sweet ballad. A similar feature is spliced into the middle of the song and gives what could be a simple ballad, a lot of personality and female vocals are added to the track which is a great way to continue the story that is being told. It’s by far the most experimental in terms of production.

The horns make their way onto the track “I Wasn’t Ready”, which plays perfectly with their guitar driven sound and smooth vocals. Soto has a chance to shine on this track, especially during the bridge which helps build up the song and provides a lot of momentum. This momentum never slows down as Soto demands your attention in “Pull Me In” by starting the track of with booming drums which is a nice change of direction. Bednar’s voice stands out on this song as he belts out exclamations of adoration on top of the sound of blasting horns.

“Talkin Bout My Baby” provides a sound that is entirely different but still cohesive with the rest of the project. They depart from the typical song structure; right when you expect the song to die down, they come back in one last time to really drive the song home. The change in the vocal styles makes it stand out as possibly the most folk and its acoustic intro, interesting rhythm, and more spoken style of singing is a surprise I can appreciate. It’s possibly the most upbeat and energetic song that mirrors how one would act if talking about someone you love.

Closing out the EP is “Rosie’s Song”, which is where Couture and Bednar really shine with their strong guitar presence. This song has a quiet confidence about its message; there is conviction in loving someone even if that person does not feel the same. It’s a sweet track with even sweeter beats and the ever so effective horns that makes everything feel like a John Hughes romcom. To me, this is a great way to end the project.

Holly’s Letters From Lawndale is a refreshing take on modern rock as it resembles a softer side of rock that is not afraid to incorporate more instruments and musical styles. While it may not feature incredibly hard styles like rock typically can, Bednar, Couture and Soto know their sound and execute a well-rounded and entertaining EP. They have a classical style that is enjoyable for anyone regardless of age and this is a project that could be loved by whoever. The trio is currently touring around Illinois, so if you are in the area try to make it out for a show; regardless check out this project!

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