It’s no surprise that Holy Holy have had huge success on Australian alternative radio. Their lush and confident songs are nothing if not palatable, full of lovely melodies, tumbling guitar arpeggios and easygoing folk-rock rhythms. On their debut album When the Storms Would Come they make an excellent case for themselves as very talented musicians, but fail to demonstrate why we should listen to them over any other of the folk set that are currently crowding the airwaves.
Holy Holy is primarily the work of frontman Timothy Carroll and guitarist/composer Oscar Dawson. With his gentle tenor and its charming vibrato, Carroll is the band’s strongest asset. At their best, as on the single “You Cannot Call for Love Like a Dog,” Holy Holy bring together the right combination of elements – a strong backbeat and soaring harmonies – to make something that is engaging and very likeable.
Unfortunately, the rest of When the Storms Would Come does not match the standard of its best songs. “A Heroine” offers up tired platitudes, a plain 6/8 swing and unoriginal melodic motifs, including a fuzzy guitar solo that feels as if it’s been placed there purely for the sake of having a solo. This is symptomatic of the record’s worst tendencies; Holy Holy seem to opt for the obvious rather than the adventurous.
The band has been compared to the classic rock of the likes of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, as well as more contemporary acts like Midlake and Grizzly Bear. While the sound is there at face value, Holy Holy lack the underlying grit and complexity that would put them even close to the level of the artists by whom they are ostensibly inspired.
There is certainly something there on the watery psych-pop of “Holy Gin,” as well as the endearingly low-key “Wanderer,” that suggests that Holy Holy are capable of making excellent music, but moments like these are few and far between. Most of When the Storms Would Come just floats by. It’s admittedly very pleasant, but it tends to fade into the background. In an indie-rock landscape populated by bands just like them, Holy Holy need something more to escape just being middle-of-the-pack.
When the Storms Would Come is out on CD, vinyl and digital formats on Friday July 24. Holy Holy are soon to embark on a national tour, including a stop at Oxford Art Factory on September 19.