Sonic Space: HOLYCHILD
For my last review of the term (!!!), I’m shamelessly plugging one of my favorite acts, HOLYCHILD. The electro-pop duo out of California recently released their first full-length album, “The Shape of Brat Pop to Come” (2015). The two define themselves as “brat pop,” which (as far as I can tell) is a combination of upbeat tracks and perturbing lyrics.
“Brat pop” is energetic, there are no slow jams or ballads on the album, but it has a dark bite to it. The staccato electronics warble and sharp, occasionally clipped vocals evoke a seedy, wired underworld.
The second track, “Nasty Girls,” juxtaposes perky voices and beats with lyrics that seem like billboard slogans from a dystopian Los Angeles (or current L.A. depending on your opinion of the city). The lyrics talk about liposuction and prescription pill abuse in the same way most people talk about reading a good book or learning a new skill — in the world of brat pop, appearances are everything and everything must be done to attain perfection.
HOLYCHILD examines the superficiality of consumption culture by exaggerating it. The songs are in turn defiant of perfection and obsessed with it. In “Happy With Me,” HOLYCHILD bemoans how limiting the drudgery of daily life can be. In this, and many other tracks, there is an aspiration of transcendence. The album is aware that life is a rat race but dares to suggest that it could be more.
The punchy sounds of the opening tracks mellow out a little bit in the body of the album. “Running Behind” and “Plastered Smile” both feature clipped vocals over rhythmically staccato beats, but other tracks, such as “Money All Around” and “Best Friends” have smoother vocals and deeper, house-influenced beats.
“Money All Around” is probably one of my favorite tracks on the album. It has the female-vocalist-over-bass-heavy-house-beat flavor that I rarely dislike. That being said, this isn’t a house track. “Money All Around” is firmly pop, the desire to sing along is nearly overwhelming, but the denser, lower beats lend the song a weight that differs from the trilling, spun sugar-light beats of “Happy With Me” or “Nasty Girls.” Of all the songs on the album, this is the one I’d most likely put on in a basement or at a party.
HOLYCHILD excels at intriguing intros. “Diamonds on the Rebound,” “Barbie Nation,” “Regret Me” and “U Make Me Sick” all have excellent intros that are experimental but segue nicely into the body of the song. The “Diamonds on the Rebound” intro features what sounds like a kids’ choir, which provides an interesting, innocent sound in contrasts to the tone of the rest of the song. Many of musical decisions on this album seem like they shouldn’t work, but they are clearly deliberate and create a cohesive album.
“The Shape of Brat Pop to Come” attempts to define a genre and casts a surprisingly wide net. HOLYCHILD will probably refine their sounds in the future and create a sharper brand, but their first full-length album covers a range of possibilities for the future of brat pop.