Written by: Eric Thompson
I noticed it during the fifth track, “Door to Another World,” right about the time Jon Visger was singing the first lines, “my footsteps are falling hard on the road between my house and your little one bedroom apartment.” Is something burning? And that’s when I remembered the frozen pizza in the oven…
Yeah, this self-titled debut full length is so good I damn near started a kitchen fire while listening to it for the first time. Well played, Hollow & Akimbo, well played.
The band is comprised of Michigan duo Jon Visger and Brian Konicek, who wrote, performed, and recorded everything themselves. One can hear quite plainly on this record that these two have spent copious amounts of time in a basement, or basement-type environ, just messing with all the musical gadgetry they’ve collected, figuring out how to get these sounds. This thing sounds big. Really big. It’s amazing that an album made by just two people can be so dense with sonic wizardry. This is power pop in the best sense. Potent, eminently danceable, and really fucking good. It deserves, and rewards, a good pair of headphones. You better clear some boogie space too.
The first single from the album, with good reason, is “Singularity” It’s the second track and it was during this song that a big grin made its way on to my face which stayed there until the smell of burnt pizza crust found its way to my nostrils. From the outset, it’s plain that something is rearing its head here. The song begins with somewhat dissonant low notes emanating from what sounds like a distorted organ. It’s slightly portentous until a driving drumbeat kicks in along with some jangly guitar. That organ, or whatever it is, fades as Visger begins to sing: “you should know enough not to get caught with your hands red.” It will show up throughout the song, poking its head around corners when Visger’s voice isn’t present. But, at the 1:55 mark, the song transforms. Visger’s modified vocals are carried over onto a single note piano melody. “Don’t know how I ended up in this place so far from everyone I know.” There’s a bit of a detour in the song here. And it’s these explorations that make the record so good. The song comes back to the chorus and then it happens. The organ-thing is all the sudden right in front of us and a barrage of sound is unleashed that would make bands whose members number in the double digits proud. This is what I meant about Hollow & Akimbo sounding big.
The record is full of grandiose melodic eloquence. The tracks often end up in somewhat unexpected places, as with “Door to Another World,” where the jerky beats of the verses give way in the end to swaying, lyric-less vocals. Then there are songs like “The One Who Has to Carry You Home,” a fairly straightforward pop driver that is nonetheless teeming with rambunctious little sound-critters. The belle of this particular ball, though, is “Still Life.” Or, at least, it’s the song I’ve listened to the most since first hearing the record. Admittedly, I do have, in any type music, a thing for staccato hand clapping, which Visger and Konicek employ here. But that’s just one of those inordinately gratifying small details that these two jam-pack their songs with. There’s also a really nice piano melody in there, and a dirty, keening guitar, and another keyboard-produced sound-thing. And the way “Still Life” releases in the end is something akin to pulling onto smooth asphalt after making your way down a dirt and gravel driveway. It’s good.
As I said before, these songs reward a good pair of headphones. They also get more and more complex upon subsequent listens. I think I’ve listened to a few of these tracks twenty times. Hollow & Akimbo’s debut will be in my player for some time yet. With “Singularity” hitting the SoundScan Top 100 last week, it seems like it will get a good amount of play in many a smart phone, as it most definitely should. Just don’t let these guys burn your place down.