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Holy Wave - "Freaks of Nurture" | Album Review

by Emma Shepard (@hugejourneyfan)

Full of surf-rock guitar riffs and reverb-y vocals you could swim inside of, Holy Wave's 2016 release practically invites your stoner friend from college over to ask you "have you ever listened to that album while blazed, though?" Freaks of Nurture is more than just stoner-rock. Oozing with laid-back summery melodies, the album creates a spacey, layered 1960s psychedelic landscape -- however, it's not your father's psych rock.

On their third full-length release, the Austin five-piece noticeably mature. As with prior releases, Holy Wave does not update their sound as much as they refine it. While the subtle grit on their 2013 record, Relax, lends to the sound, the cleaner production on Freaks of Nurture showcases the group creating at their fullest potential.

The third-track, "Western Playground," sounds almost like Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. With hints of The Byrds and White Fence, the album marries classic and modern elements brilliantly. On "Our Pigs," they flock toward a slightly grungier sound, with the vocals sitting lower in the mix and persistent percussion rising to the top. Around the 2:30 mark the dynamic starts to shift, inserting heavier keyboards and changing the course of the song. While guitar riffs are often featured, shimmering keyboards add depth to the album as a whole.

The closing track, "Minstrel's Gallop," pairs swirling keyboards with laid-back percussion and breathy vocals. The song drops off into a steady-jam near the end. Jam sessions usually make me check out; however, the guitar and whistling synth sounds intertwine so sweetly that they could've gone full Phish, and I wouldn't have noticed. Knowing their limits, the song comes to an abrupt halt and leaves the listener longing for more. This shows a tremendous amount of skill, as many psych bands don't know when the jam has died -- they sing it back to life and it goes on like the Energizer Bunny.

Freaks of Nurture is warm and mystical, swallowing the listener as they sit in the belly of fuzzy-psychedelia. Don't let the dorm-room stoner scare you away as he raves about this being his go-to toking album; this record is full of mystery, lightness, and finesse.