As his native state of Ohio learns his name, so too shall the rest of the world, one stop along the miles of touring and living at a time. Royal Holland has already, with one EP under his belt, won coniderable acclaim and with both past and present (Flamingo, his latest EP) gotten to work with Grammy award winning producer Brian Olive. With two bands and an extensive live performance list to his credit, Holland has constructed five more tracks of bitter, observational indie/folk rock on Volume Two: Flamingo.
The core of Royal Holland’s music lies deeper than the warm melodies of his voice and the sometimes abrasive, sometimes abstract but always inviting songwriting he’s honed over many years of experience. Deeper still is an atmosphere of tense revelation and simple understanding, equally violent as it is calm. Almost as if Holland is viewing the world slightly off its axis but hitting the nail on the head at the same time. It’s this contradictory feeling, meshing introspection with observation, that intrigues the listener most of all. No discounting his ability to write a memorable track, as the infectiously catchy and overstated (in a good way, mind you) title track clearly represents a universal appeal in the folk rock/indie rock spheres. His upper-register vocals are clean and soaring here, as he pines for the natural world in contrast to the artificial, using the imagery of a flamingo and its kitsch plastic garden decoration to drive home his point. “Holy Moses” is what I refer to as “pulpit music”, where the instrumental aspects play only to emphasize the words of the singer. Powerful words they are. For further impressions, the Beatles-esque “Polaroid Blues” rocks on a nostalgic level that too many musicians attempt but few can really capture. Amazingly Royal Holland pulls this off with one example on the EP. My personal favorite track, “These Mundane Lives”, closes the set on a bittersweet note, its poppy verses counterpointed by its lyrics and meloncholy melodies.
As folk musicians go, Royal Holland is quite clearly teetering on the edge of something else altogether. With a slew of influences creeping into his sound that range across the history of singer/songwriters, folk rockers and even 60’s pop, Volume Two: Flamingo flexes a heavy amount of talent and touch within its five tracks. The atmosphere is at times breathtakingly stark, painfully true and undeniably the biggest selling point to the collection as a whole. Perhaps the most impressive feat here is that Holland captures this but also manages to make each song stand alone experiences. A more impressive spin of its kind is something I haven’t heard in quite some time.