Issue #180: Think I Need The Light by Holy Now
September 30, 2019
Released On April 27, 2018
Released By Lazy Octopus Records
The first time I listened to this album all the way through, I still had a car. I don’t remember where I was driving, but I do remember it was the summer and I was going through a really hard time, perhaps a break-up. What really stands out was that I didn’t stop driving until the album was finished, and then… I cried. I even took a picture of myself crying and sent it to my best friend who had showed me Holy Now, because I thought it would be funny. (We have a dark sense of humor.)
My friend is obsessed with Sweden so he pays attention to the music scene around there. I would say on average, I click one of three links to bands he texts me… because I’m a bad friend. “Wake Up” by Holy Now passed through my bare minimum friend effort when it was texted to me, and I am just so thankful it did. Think I Need The Light came out shortly after that discovery and I will never forget the catharsis I felt while first getting to know this album.
Every word in every song feels vulnerable, emotionally raw, and simply honest to me. The lyrics are beautiful and relatable, displayed just perfectly in “Pearl,” my favorite track which never fails to give me goosebumps by the time the chorus hits. “Will you keep me from the dark / I think I need the light,” singer Julia Olander belts. And it feels crushing. All of it.
The first track, “Toronto,” is quite a proper introduction. It starts slow and steady — “What is left to say here / What is left to do” — offering some very blunt and precise questions to ask as an opening line. In Holy Now style, the song builds in a way that fully prepares you for the rest of the album — something that will pierce you in your soul. These songs seem to have a pattern of seeming gentle at first, but driving you home not too long after. In a way, it feels to me about the same as one working through their own emotions, which is probably why I find this album so therapeutic.
I almost have a hard time writing about these songs just because I feel like they speak for themselves so thoroughly. They are all no-nonsense, pure, and straight-to-the-point jams. I just love them. Olander has a special way of making me feel like I’m personally being addressed line after line. That’s something you can’t fake in music… approaching something in such full truth that everyone who listens will feel as if they were the one that broke your heart in the first place even though you are listening to mend your own.
Part of me wants to recommend this album for a bright sunny day. That was the setting I had first heard it in. Regardless of the beautiful weather, I still remember that at my core, I was feeling miserable the morning I had heard it. Listening to the chillingly powerful vocals and the jangly, somewhat chaotic guitar patterns, as I mentioned earlier, made me sob. I can’t imagine being more heartbroken while simultaneously understood as I identified with all of the melancholy feelings I sat with in each track.
The other part of me will tell you to listen to this album when you are feeling your absolute darkest. Reel in each dreamy chord and all of the emotional vulnerability behind this work of art. Perhaps listen to it on a rainy day and let Holy Now remind you exactly why you need the light.
Sammi Lanzetta (@sammilanzetta)
Pugnacious & Poignant Rock Force
Sweet Swedish rockers packing a musical whirlwind & lyrical punch.
I am embroiled in one of those stupid computer projects, where I have to rebuild the iTunes library of bootlegs on my laptop. I had to take it all off to free up room to upgrade the OS and something went wrong whenever I returned the many gigabytes of music to the hard drive. The gist of it is, I have doubles — and sometimes triples — of many albums. This has caused a space problem so severe that when I try to add music back into the library, I get a warning that I can’t copy all the files! Argh. Anyhoo, this painstaking work led me to a realization today: I have a good number of recordings from Sweden. From Mahalia Jackson (Stockholm, 1961) to David Bowie (Gothenburg, 1978), with Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis in between, there was obviously a history of good booking there, which maybe partly due to how appreciative the audiences were. One of my favorites in this regard is the Bowie show, a classic performance from his White Light tour taped by someone in the crowd. When I listen to it, I think: these are my people. I never got to see Bowie in ’78, but feel I have experienced it vicariously through these people. I imagine them welcoming me with open arms, with us dancing and singing along together. Maybe the parents of some of the members of Holy Now, a fine quartet from Gothenburg, were at that show, carrying some of that excitement into their adulthood and passing it on to their offspring. Not that there’s anything particularly Bowie-esque about Holy Now’s excellent Think I Need The Light, a collection of well-informed and extremely melodic indie-rock. I say “rock” not “pop,” even though there is a wonderful lightness to their songs, because they inject real band interplay into their songs. Take album opener “Toronto,” for example, which goes from a slightly tentative beginning to utter liftoff in the last two minutes, with sky-scraping guitars and drums that rush and push. Their Swedish side comes out in the ultra-clear, vibrato-free singing of Julia Olander, but I might think that only because I know where they’re from. If the thrilling end to “Toronto” doesn’t sell you on the band, hold on for wonders like the sublime bass playing on “Say It Again” or the yearning delights of “Something Real.” You’ll soon be a fan and just as excited as I am to see they released three more songs this past June. Gothenburg music history is well served by Holy Now.
Jeremy Shatan (@anearful)
Prescient & Appreciative Musical Omnivore
If you’re here, you’re here to read about music and the last thing you want to find is more politics or social issue commentary. And though that may be squarely in the wheelhouse of some artists’ approach to music, let me assure you that I am not going to talk about that. Holy Now’s Think I Need The Light is primarily about relationships, love, and the emotional turmoil surrounding human interaction. But as I listen to it this week, a 16 year old girl named Greta Thunberg has been thrust onto the world stage and the idea of innocence seems to be taking a beating. Greta has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. If you know anything about the condition or you’ve met anyone on that end of the autism spectrum, then you know that much of what she says when she addresses the UN or addresses the public is coloured with a sort of aloof directness which is characteristic of those with Asperger’s. The most fascinating thing about it is how people, regardless of their beliefs, seem to misinterpret her lack of social nuance as either direct and humorous (if you agree with her) or petulant and defiant (if you don’t). When she states a matter of fact, her supporters chuckle politely as if she’d made a defiant joke of of being so blunt. She hasn’t. Her detractors interpret the same action as an angry petulance. Regardless of where you stand, it’s important to take a step back and look at the whole person — to remind yourself that she’s still a 16 year old girl. She does not deserve either reverence or vitriol — she deserves to be treated as a 16 year old girl who’s passionate and cares deeply and with unusual single-minded focus — again, a signature of Asperger’s. Her message is hard to ignore no matter where you stand. As she dominated media this week, I was moving from appreciating “Toronto” and “Feel It All” to “Glowing.” I was struck by the innocence that the gentle airiness and sweet pitch with which the lead vocalist conveys her message. With such ease, Holy Now is evocative of an emotional response. The guitar effects nod to the shoegazer sound and remind me of one of my favourite bands from the ’90s, Lush. The notes of their melodies are a melodic guitar-driven parade that barely registers on the rock Richter scale. It made me think a lot about how we take such ability to convey the nuance of emotion through music for granted. It can sound simple and yet the complexity of a feeling, translated through the medium only works because it’s something we all share. On “Something Real,” the words, “Wanted to feel something real” and “I tried to breathe but I can’t slow down anymore” echo through a hall of reverb guitar and we all understand immediately the feeling of being passionate and moving forward. For Greta, who sailed across the ocean to carry her message to the United States, there’s a similar kind of innocence coupled with a drive to communicate her passion. It’s interpreted by some as naivete and by others as wisdom. Regardless of where you stand, we can all agree she cares deeply. The earth itself has no voice; it only requires of us that we do with it what we will. Like any system it reacts to us while we’re here and will recover long after we’re gone. The only thing we really need to decide is how long we want to survive and enjoy it. Holy Now communicate the emotions of relationships, heartbreak and hope that we can all relate to. Our species universally share the longings, miseries and joys of each other. Someone like Greta Thunberg, communicates as best she can, what science says is the peril of our present course. In both cases, it’s better for all of us if we really listen.
Darryl Wright (@punksteez)
Lovechild Of The Music & Technology Marriage
My phone and my car’s Bluetooth connection have been conspiring to drill LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends,” specifically the London Sessions live version, deep into my brain. For the last week or so, the song has started playing of its own volition each time I’ve started the car, and I’ve been connecting with it in ways I hadn’t before. The relentless momentum. The nostalgia. Most of all, I’ve been thinking about the ache it communicates — an exquisite yearning that feels inescapable as a result of the rigid beat it rides along with. My ears perked up when I played Holy Now’s “Something Real” (by choice, not by robot conspiracy), because I heard that same vivid, persistent ache. The commanding motorik drum pattern is there in full force, alongside lyrics that achieve that beautiful balance of grasping for something intangible while conveying a feeling that’s hauntingly specific. “I tried to breathe but I can’t slow down anymore / I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep anymore.” It’s overwhelming in the most contagious way — a perfect pairing of form and message — and when the lyrical payoff hits with Julia Olander singing “I need to feel alive / I need it all to shine,” the rapture of it all is almost too much to bear. It’s one of those songs where it doesn’t so much end as release you from the hold it had on you for the preceding few minutes. Because of how often I’ve returned to “Something Real,” I’ve spent almost as much time with the following track, “Say It Again,” which closes the album with a yearning that’s communicated with a wildly different musical palette — spare at first, and less urgent, but no less captivating. There are “so many things to say,” sings Olander, and I’m grateful for Holy Now’s illustration of how those many things can be communicated effectively in just as many ways.
Davy Jones (@youhearthat)
Idealistic Seeker Of Neoteric Sounds
Capturing the emotive & ebullient spirit of Holy Now in three different settings.
Today was a larger struggle than most Sunday’s are for me. Blame it on the cold and rainy weather, blame it on my exhaustion or pure laziness — blame it on whatever you want but today was a struggle for me. I got a second wind at some point and made a homemade dinner, but everything beyond that felt like a task. That was until I put on Think I Need The Light by Holy Now. Although clearly upbeat and poppy, there was something genuinely sensitive about this eight song album. It was almost like the music was talking to me and telling me that it was okay that I had a lazy day and I can continue to be lazy though the night, but I had to get my apartment clean and things in order so I could have a productive week. Although all eight songs had an undeniable pop element to them, there were some songs that stood out as a bit more ballad like. There was something almost therapeutic about doing my dishes to “Tainted Heart.” It was almost like my own meditation moment and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had such clean dishes because I just zoned out while getting lost in the beauty of the song. “Feel It All” was my favorite track on this album (although they are all amazing). I loved how, even though the beat was upbeat and quick-paced, there was something in the vocals that was painfully honest and almost raw. The juxtaposition of those two factors created a song that I may or may not have listened to over a dozen times before sitting down to do this review. I’ve only been doing OYR reviews for a couple of weeks now, but every album seems to be the better than the last and, thus far, Think I Need The Light by Holy Now has been the best. Definitely a far cry from my typical angsty and nostalgic playlist, I can already see myself listening to this album on repeat for weeks to come.
Langen Goldstien (@girlatrockshows)
Queen Of Everything Loud & Nostalgic
You know what’s so great about Nas’ classic debut Illmatic? On top of being a musical masterpiece, it’s also the perfect length. It’s just enough to take you on an unforgettable journey, but leaves you wanting more. I think this should be the goal of any album, and it’s one achieved here by Holy Now. I particularly enjoyed the somber, yet moving energy of “Glowing.” It’s a track that, for some innate reason, gave me the warm and fuzzes like so many of our favorite rock ballads of the eighties. It’s a track that could easily find its way onto The Breakfast Club soundtrack. The same can be said for “Time,” which features some silky-smooth harmonies that’ll raise the hairs on the back of your neck. And then there’s the immaculate closer “Say It Again.” I’m always impressed by how songwriters can pinpoint the exact emotions of a situation we’ve all been through — especially when that situation has been described a million times over by other songwriters. But Holy Now manage to tug at our collective heart strings in the simplest, most vivid terms: “I’ll be waiting by the phone / so that I won’t feel alone / there’s so many things to say / wish it all would go away.” Bingo. Hopefully OYR gives Holy Now the necessary light that they need.
Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford (@jclyde757)
Steadfast Hip-Hop Historian & Creator
Given the indie rock-ness of Think I Need The Light, and especially its sunny and cavernous production, I was surprised to learn that Holy Now is a Swedish band. I got a My Morning Jacket vibe from the outset, which is pretty (damn) far from Gothenburg, both musically and geographically. Additionally, when I think of Gothenburg in terms of music, I don’t think of indie rock. Instead, I think melodeath pioneers like Dark Tranquility and At The Gates. (I guess I think of The Knife and Silent Shout, too.) I certainly don’t picture a band like Holy Now hailing from Scandinavia. It raised an eyebrow, is what I’m saying. Looking at the record on its own merits, I dig it. I like the guitar solos in particular. They’re stately and they don’t overtake the songs themselves. Meanwhile, the arrangements are simple and match the tastefulness of the solos — another plus. Then there are Julia Olander’s vocals, probably the best part of Think I Need The Light. She sings with careful grace and her melodies soar without being overbearing. Speaking of, the melodies don’t stick after a single listen, and that’s totally OK. When they do, however, they’re in your head for a good long while. I also like the bitter-sweet pairing of upbeat music with sad lyrics. Some of the most memorable moments of my life are both good and bad, so I’m easily biased towards the expression of that. This album was a pleasant surprise all around. Solid pick, I must say.
Steve Lampiris (@stevenlampiris)
Sure, Let’s Go With That
It seems wholly appropriate that my friend and I had a conversation today about our favorite album titles. As I listen to Holy Now for the first time, I realize that it’s difficult to separate the album title from the music. A cool title only functions as awesome within the context of the mood that the songs bring to the table. This is all very important, because the atmosphere of my Sunday evening is defined by the fact that Think I Need The Light delivers on both fronts — with its music as well as the packaging that accompanies it — in creating a cohesive and distinctive mood over the course of its eight tracks. I’m a huge fan of brevity in albums these days, which is a major change from the the-more-the-merrier approach I had last year at this time. I have a lot of respect for artists who can create a powerful statement in under an hour. Holy Now does it in under forty-five minutes. Thirty-one, to be exact. The tracks on this album sound like a modern development on some amalgamation of The Cranberries, The Smiths, and all of the New York experimental art scene musicians from the ’90s (Inger Lorre, Jeff Buckley, Joan Wasser). In a contemporary context, the delivery is fresh and new, with the energy and song craft that one would hope to find in any pop song, as well as the innovation and adventure that pretentious losers like me run to the less mainstream genres to find. This is certainly an album I’m happy to know exists. I look forward to turning more folks on to Holy Now.
Joel Worford (@joel_worford)
Confused & Confusing Since 1965
Powerful in its simplicity, it’s Holy Now’s ability to layer so subtly that makes each song an unfolding revelation.
This past week has been an extremely long week in a stream of long weeks. I think I’m averaging four and a half hours of sleep a night, although that number might go up when you factor in the five naps I took between Wednesday and Thursday. I spend most of my commutes listening to Converge just to stay awake. It’s honestly been a blur — when I got home on Friday night, I got annoyed at myself for missing the deadline to contribute to this week’s issue because I thought it was already Monday. But when I realized that I still had some time left, I put on Think I Need The Light… and fell asleep almost immediately. That’s not to say Holy Now bored me so much that I couldn’t stay awake listening to them. It’s the opposite. Their calm approach to indie rock was just what I needed to finally relax. When I woke up in the middle of the night because of a stress dream that I slept through my alarm, I started the album over and fell asleep again. It’s been great having an album that helps me sleep although I admit that it’s been detrimental to fully absorbing it the way that I usually do. Until I started writing this, I don’t think I ever even made it further than track 3. “Toronto” might be the most recognizable to me, but only because of its placement in the track order. I’ve found that the true gems are hidden at the end — between the beachy-but-not-quite-surf guitar vibes and the lyrical longing for something more in life. “Something Real” sounds like if Sløtface worked with Chris Farren. And if I’m not mistaken, the heartbreaking “Say It Again” recalls Big Star’s “Thirteen,” another ode to young love. I probably could have gotten even more out of this album if I hadn’t spent most of my free time sleeping, but as it remains, Think I Need The Light has joined the ranks of Stranger In The Alps and Birdy as albums I can rely on to help me find some peace.
Dustin Gates (@cmoncheermeup)
Relapsed Pop Culture Junkie
As I sit here writing this, I am gearing up for a (slightly unexpected) trip to my favourite place. I’m headed to London and am packing for rain, as one normally does when heading to the United Kingdom, and I literally can’t think of anything else I’m so excited. I saw the album artwork and the yellow immediately stood out to me — I thought of sunshine, and then I pressed play and was not disappointed. This album is exactly that: a much-needed ray of light. It is so dreamy and sunny, in the sense that it reminds me more of driving along the Pacific Coast Highway than getting ready for a trip to one of the most notoriously rainy places in the world (not that I dislike that — I love the rain). The track “Feel It All” just screams indie beach party to me. To be fair, they all do and you can bet I’ve already added these to my “Songs To Dance Around To” playlist on Spotify. Everything about these songs is everything that I love: great dreamy rock sounds, excellent vocals, and meaningful lyrics. I was trying to figure out who this band reminded me of, and while I may be way off, I definitely get Wolf Alice vibes which is fitting seeing that England is on the mind. I’ve just checked the forecast again, and I think I was right about this album being a ray of light in an otherwise grey place — the whole week is now on track to be as sunny as this great record.
Chelsea Kostrey (@chelseakostrey)
Retrophile & Festival Enthusiast
Words fail me when it comes to this album. Not that I don’t have them and won’t relay them to you, but they just don’t fully grasp how beautiful and powerful this record is, with eight songs that can cut you in a dozen ways, subtle and obvious, if you immerse yourself in it. Calling it indie pop is a disservice, but so is running down all the little sub-sections crossing paths with one another, including twee and surf. Instead, the album is best observed through the individual pieces that make up the dazzling whole. Julia Olander is a revelation throughout, combining direct, piercing words with some soaring vocals that feel heartbroken and empowered all at the same time, like someone fully experiencing loss while knowing they won’t ever let it define them. She takes center stage in most songs, as it builds to a vocal swell that could make your jaw hurt from the prolonged drop, but the music behind her is just as spectacular. Despite the gentle sway and congenial jangle most songs offer, there are exciting moments aplenty in each song, from surprisingly peculiar guitar solos to drum parts that rev like a model engine. But most exciting is how the band never seems content in any one sound or groove, constantly pushing each song to be something more than that sum of its parts. Sometimes it’s Olander pushing it through the barrier with her emphatic voice, and other times, it’s just a combination of intriguing musical elements layered so uniquely in an otherwise standard power-rock song. The end result is a record with a well-defined sound despite each of its eight tracks sounding fresh and different. The brisk run-time of the record helps things infinitely as well, but considering how quick I, and others here, were to hit the repeat button after the majestic closing track “Say It Again,” I don’t think anyone would really complain if Holy Now offered up a record twice or thrice this long. There’s a lot more to say about this record, but as I mentioned at the start, those words will fall just short of capturing the breath-taking quality of this unassuming rock record. Maybe the only words I need to describe this were two that I used in my opening sentence. Simply put… Think I Need The Light is beautiful and powerful.
Doug Nunnally (@musicdoug)
Garrulous Aural Braggart
Dirty Harriet by Rah Digga
Chosen By Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford