reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
There is something about the resurgence of 90s style understated alt-rock that feels very fitting of 2018. The energy give-and-take needs a certain level of nuance to hit that balance of casual passivity and fervour. It’s a balance that Montreal band Holding Hands strike by tethering their sound to a buoyant electric guitar and running the vocals through hazy effects. The passion made all the stronger for its distance.
Self-described as “an existential guitar explosion”, Holding Hands place the guitar at the forefront to help Fear of Death stand out in a golden age of alternative rock. On “What I Want” it is the guitar that brightens the nonchalant vocals, on “In My Way”, the electric riffs keep steady pace with meandering breaks.
There is a hardness to these tracks that makes the instrumental individuality a feature. In that ever-present relationship with balance, the focus occasionally breaks away from the guitars, and create variety by handing the starring role to the drums, as on “Nah”. On more contemporarily pop-infused tracks, the vocals get their moment: the repetition and melody of “I’m Not Down” is a strong case. Still, in the end, the guitar is always at hand, and is always sparkling.
The EP doesn’t just shine for the energy transfer between instruments. There is also a mastery of energy flow between tracks. “Fear of Death” kicks the EP off with a messy instrumental that introduces the tone. “In My Way” slows everything down so that introspective lyrics can settle in. When the five-plus minute “Nah” arrives, the energy jumps back up and swings the record into a whirl where “Carolina” can act as a final equalizer with the thud of the bass and drum-fill flare.
In this world driven by mixed message and extreme emotional spectrums, the low-key vibes and compelling guitars on Holding Hands’ Fear of Death is a satisfying transfer of energy just complex enough to have you lost in it.
Top Track: “Nah”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)