Holy Holy – ‘Hello My Beautiful World’ review: indie rock duo reposition themselves with existentialist electro-pop

Timothy Carroll and Oscar Dawson’s pandemic album offers cosmic contemplation and expansive soundscapes for future festivals

Holy Holy are a restless band. Their latest album, ‘Hello My Beautiful World’, is their fourth in six years. What’s more, frontman Timothy Carroll and guitarist Oscar Dawson have dramatically rebooted on this opus, shelving the opulent psych-country for buoyant electro-pop anthems.

On their 2015 debut, ‘When The Storms Would Come’, Holy Holy offered retro guitar music. They now revel in spacey synths, big beats and digitalised effects, edging closer to the sounds of RÜFÜS DU SOL or SAFIA.

‘Hello’ is a meditative yet uplifting album that fosters calm and collectivity in response to pandemic existentialism. Carroll had been saving the title, prompted by his son’s exclamation of wonder when the family moved to the Tasmanian bush. But, on this record, hope can be brittle. Recent single ‘The Aftergone’, featuring Sydney indie siblings CLEWS, is a post-dystopian banger with guitar riffs, yes, but also Auto-Tune and irony.

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A cynic might dismiss Holy Holy’s reinvention as a calculated bid for relevance. After all, they remain somewhat under the radar, despite receiving their first ARIA nomination for 2019’s socially-themed ‘My Own Pool Of Light’ (‘Best Rock Album’). Still, it was inevitable that Holy Holy would transport their epic songs into an electronic realm, fulfilling their festival potential.

DMA’S shed their image as Brit-pop nostalgists by introducing dance music influences – notably commissioning an Orbital remix – and Holy Holy’s sonic evolution has been similarly incremental. Even on ‘When The Storms Would Come’, the pair utilised vintage synths (besides, Dawson was formerly a member of the dancey Dukes Of Windsor). Then, for the transitional ‘My Own Pool Of Light’, they sought Melbourne chillwaver Japanese Wallpaper (Gabriel Strum) as programmer.

Carroll and Dawson – the latter residing on Victoria’s coast – completed ‘Hello’ amid lockdown, working long-distance. But it’s their most collaborative project. Holy Holy not only reunited with Strum, but also recruited The Presets’ Kim Moyes (who’s coincidentally produced DMA’S). The revolutionary lead single, ‘Port Rd’, is elevated by Sudanese-Australian MC Queen P and a virtual choir of fans.

On ‘Hello’, Carroll explores subconscious behaviour as much as suspended time. The album opens with ‘Believe Anything’, deceptively carefree with its booming synths, chanted “la, la, la’s” and a huge build. Carroll’s lyrics are ambiguous, proffering validation but actually exposing the perils of gullibility in the era of misinformation and conspiracy: “We were lost and I liked the way it felt”.

More transparent still is the title track, a spoken word poem with orchestration. The stirring song is folktronica-meets-kosmiche, Carroll’s rumination on nature, humanity and life cycles conveying a transcendent altruism. The album’s zenith is the empathetic overture ‘Stand Where I’m Standing’ – ’80s synth-rock in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen and Tears For Fears, Dawson fervently guitar-soloing over a rhythmic groove. It isn’t far from Holy Holy’s 2017 Platinum-certified hit ‘True Lovers’.

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‘Hello’ loses focus in its backend, the songs ‘Shoreditch’ and ‘So Tired’ submerged in soundscapes. However, the album has a memorable finale in the quiet piano balladry of ‘Here And Now’. Carroll reveals how intimacy creates a sense of stillness and sanctuary. It’s uncannily like Royal Blood’s ‘All We Have Is Now’, the closing track of the British duo’s 2021 album ‘Typhoons’, though Carroll’s vocal runs are more indebted to James Blake.

With ‘Hello’, Holy Holy’s slow motion pivot from arcadian rock’n’rollers to panoramic electro-pop boffins has credibly come to fruition. When the Australian live circuit revives, and Holy Holy are able to freely perform ‘Hello’ live to large ecstatic audiences, they should reap the rewards.

Details

Holy Holy Hello My Beautiful World 2021 album review
  • Release date: August 20
  • Record label: Wonderlick Recording Company/Sony
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