Hollyhocks – Understories

January 01, 1970

(Mystery Lawn)




The Hollyhocks make a luminous, pristine sort of pop, last
spotted in the dreamy days of the Sundays. Guitar lines are polished to a high,
reverberant glitter, so that individual notes seem to hang, sparkling, against
a velvety drape.  A brash rhythm section
grounds these songs in rock, but singer Kristin Sobditch is always untethering
them.  Her soft, lucid voice floats like
a helium balloon over the instrumental arrangements, buoyant, untroubled and
effortless. The sound on Understories is so clean and bright that you might not notice at first that “Photograph” is
the Def Leppard single, stretched to a languid, day-dreamy ballad, embellished
with swoops of strings and incorporating, right at the end, a quotation from
“Baba O’Reilly.”


Hollyhocks is a relatively new band, formed around the
nucleus of Sobditch, who sometimes sings with Mark Eitzel’s American Music
Club, and guitarist Dan Jewett, who, in the early 1990s band the Himalayas,
wrote a song called “Round Here” with Adam Duritz (this later became an early
Counting Crows hit).  Understories is just what you might
expect given such lineage, an album full of sweeping melodic lines and punchy
rock underpinnings.  


These tunes are best when they’re least specific lyrically. Country-ish
“Everyone’s Here” describes a family picnic in endless, not-very-entertaining
detail, turning smug and self-satisfied and over-particular, rather than universal.
Far superior “EO” abandons words altogether for criss-crossing arcs of nonsense
syllables. Here “ees” and “oohs” vault upward, trail away and descant against
one another in patterns that may have no literal meaning, but carry significant
emotional freight. It is, perhaps, worth mentioning that Understories comes out on Allen Clapp’s Mystery Lawn label, a
creditable addition to Clapp’s Orange Peel tradition of manicured,
immaculately-produced pop with a strong undercurrent of feeling.


DOWNLOAD: “EO”, “Photograph”


Leave a Reply