Holiday for Strings don't make songs, they create magic carpet rides.
The new album is not easy to describe. The group is influenced by pretty much every style and era of music there is- believe me, I've seen their record collections.
The nine songs on Favorite Flavor are dark and atmospheric without ever being close to depressing or downbeat, there is still romance and lyricism built into every moment of its 47 minutes.
Starre's bass is deep, sometimes dub-like; Pony's drums static and reminiscent of new wave and disco drums. Magnus Magnusson's voice echoes hauntingly throughout the albums six vocal tracks, sometimes whispering intimately, never losing the tension it exudes.
The music sometimes erupts though. The first song of the record, the title track, literally explodes after four minutes, wall of sound style. The heavily distorted guitars seem to be beaten up by savages, Oscar Tillman bangs the same chord over and over. You come out on the other side of this primal burst at around two minutes later, with damaged ears, everything sounds muffled, as heard from the next door neighbor, until Magnusson reappears, chanting "you've got what i need, but you say you're just a friend", referencing Biz Markie. The song clocks out at 6.45.
There are two additional, long carpet rides on the album: "Light Years Ahead" and "Unwilling/Not Able". The latter being an eight and a half minute long, dark and cosmic pop song, complete with marimbas and steel pans. It features Titiyo, the Swedish female artist, whose new album, Hidden, was well received throughout Europe in 2009, singing alongside Magnusson, about irretrievable love.
"Light Years Ahead" is a post rock/boogie funk piece with ambiguous lyrics about the extinction of musicians, sung from the point of view of a time traveler, ending with a powerful display of musicianship, as if to counter what the lyrics state.
There are two faster and shorter, or for other bands, normal length tracks, geared towards the dance floor. "Two of You", originally released as a double 7" on Kanine Records in 2008, is a catchy, punky, dub-disco track with playful lyrics hinting at a threesome.
The other one is a cover of an Arthur Russell song that the band has remodeled considerably. In the hands of Holiday for Strings, Russell's "Calling Out of Context", is a force more than a song, a driving, syncopated, high-speed train featuring 2010's catchiest instrumental chorus.
There are three instrumental songs on Favorite Flavor: "Particles" is a nod to Alan Parson Project's "I, robot". The band lays down a spacious, hammering groove over a constantly changing arpeggiator, slowly adding on instruments, bringing it to a screeching halt at 2.20, then bringing it all back in again, full throttle.
"Shelter Island" is a song inspired by the island where a great love began, a place caught between the two most remote eastern tips of Long island, with the best beach in the state of New York.
The third instrumental, "I cry/ Night After Night", ends the album and is its second cover. Originally a song off The Egyptian Lover's first album On the Nile from 1984, it's a track that feels as if it was written for the band. Their remake is stripped of all of the original's excess, leaving it to consist of a four note bass line, a hand played electro drum beat sounding as if blasted from a boom box in the street, and a hidden melody that only plays out fully four times during the songs three and a half minutes. It's a perfectly upbeat and minimal ending to a complex and diverse album that will surely stand the test of time.
released March 25, 2010
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