Have I Told You Lately That I Loathe You? (Haleri/Black Star Foundation, 06.2010)
For: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Tobias Fröberg, The Devil Whale
Byline: File under: Another Swedish band doing our music better than us.
Coming from the same fertile soil and label that produced Lars Ludvig Löfgren's excellent 2010 release Heterochromia, Holmes sophomore album Have I Told You Lately That I Loathe You is a tightly-wound package of melancholy Americana transplanted in central Sweden. The bleak existential loneliness of midwestern America/Canada that inspired Neil Young and Alan Sparhawk is infused into every tale of heartbreak and betrayal from this Vänersborg quintet. Sounding like he just came out of a hellacious break-up (if you couldn't tell by the title) , Holme's vocalist Kristoffer Bolander's accented and affecting croon broods on the quiet numbers and soars above rafter-shaking crescendos with cathartic heroism on the noisier ones. Most of the output on HITYLTILY is filtered through subdued sense of sadness, rife with lap-steel punctuated moments of lilting beauty that accompany the exquisite pain in Bolander's voice. "Afar" finds his vocal register climbing into the Jonsi Birgisson-range falsetto if Birgisson sang flannel-shirted alt-country. Holmes gets loud, occasionally, the Young accolyte comparisons seem to stick the most. "The Strangest Calm" showcase the bands mastery of pacing and delivery, weaving dueling guitar melodies that hold on single notes over the din of reverb-drenched guitar feedback. Have I Told You Lately That I Loathe You gets major points, aside from ripping off Rod Stewart, in producing something that sounds totally honest. Honest and sad. But doing it without the self-aware pretension that is stuck so righteously to a majority of the alt-country ghetto. Bolander doesn't have to fake a country accent, or prematurely destroy his vocal chords to produce that haggard two-pack-a-day-since-fifteen croak in order to produce authenticity. The honesty of Holmes comes from their ability to play with real emotion, packing enough throat-tightening catharsis in the second act of the album closer "Breathing" to satiate my once fond feelings for the genre. I guess it just took a group of Swedes to show us that we were doing our own music wrong.