Hollands - Restless Youth - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Hollands - Restless Youth

by Jim Cunnar Rating:7 Release Date:2014-11-11

Restless Youth is the debut album from Brooklyn-based Hollands, the husband-wife team of multi-instrumentalist John-Paul Norpoth and violinist Jannina Norpoth. The songs were penned over a period of six years from 2005 through 2011. Recording of the tracks occurred in early 2014, with the assistance of a Kickstarter campaign.

My first impression of Restless Youth  was that it was inconsistent. Despite the strength of most of the songs, the album struggles to find a good flow. Perhaps this is because the songs were written over so long a period, with some of the earliest material dating from almost 10 years ago.  It feels like a collection of singles or b-sides, not a cohesive collection of material put together for a unified release.  

That being said, this album has been growing on me. 'Great White Shark' is a massive, overdubbed attention-grabber, with Pablo Honey-era Radiohead-influence oozing out of it.  'Sugarplums' builds into an effect-pedal-driven rocker, with JP and Jannina harmonizing beautifully through the chorus. It’s a nicely balanced, tight piece. 'Defeat' has JPN channeling Bono at his finest, defiantly singing from what seems like a mountain-top.  

It's obvious the making of Restless Youth was a labor of love for JPN. You can tell he tweaked, wrestled and finagled these songs into submission. There is Auto-Tune, violin, viola, harp, synths, and drum programming in addition to guitar, bass and drums.  As interesting as it is having this smorgasbord of sounds, it can overwhelm, such as on 'Stem and Chaser'. You get a sense this song would of benefitted from a more stripped-down approach.

The lyrics seem very personal and nebulous, with references to The Beatles (“Go, take her downtown/ through strawberry fields/ Just take her from me” from 'Let Me In') and a difficult break-up (“We never got along on the dancefloor/ dancin’ through the streets of our egos” from 'Defeat'). The final song, 'Else', is the most direct - a beautiful tribute to JPNs grandmother. It’s simultaneously expansive and sparse, ending the album with a subdued guitar solo by jazz guitarist A. Spencer Barefield and guest vocalist Jessica Tivens operatic voice lilting to fade.  

Restless Youth is strong in places, erratic in others. Despite some of the rough edges, it’s an enjoyable listen, and a serviceable debut. Hopefully the next set of songs won’t be so mercilessly wrestled with.  

Must-hears: 'Great White Shark', 'Defeat', 'Sugarplums', 'Else'

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