Holly Brook: Holly Brook
A Review

4 April 2006
By Jason Luttrell
United States of AmericaSalt Lake City, Utah, United States of America

Machine Shop Recordings is both cruel and clever at the same time: Holly Brook's self-titled debut EP, preceding her full-length album Like Blood Like Honey, contains only five of her stunning songs. This is cruel because the listener is left in a state of longing, at least until 6 June, when the album will be released in the States. The label is clever for marketing reasons; it is giving only a sample of what this nascent artist is capable of, while currently teasing the American public with radio and TV promotion. Consequently, the buzz surrounding Holly Brook is high: her songs were featured on the TV shows Related (WB) and Conviction (NBC), while her vocals grace the chorus of the fast-rising single "Where'd You Go" by Fort Minor. If "Where'd You Go" follows the success of Eminem's "Stan", the catchy rap will not only propel Fort Minor, but Holly Brook will become a more sought-after artist, comparable to Dido in the beginning of her career.

According to the biography on Holly Brook's official web site, she deserves the attention. She's been working hard since she was very young, and by the age of 15 had three folk albums available. She has also toured through the US and Australia as the opening act for the rap-heavy Fort Minor (and, as a pensive pop singer, opening for a rap artist is no easy task). Hard work, however, isn't everything: talent is the preeminent factor for any aspiring musician. Luckily, Holly has more than enough.

Her greatest talent is her voice; it is strong and gentle at the same time. She sings in a straightforward manner, without a great deal of flair. It is this simplicity that is the most engaging: her voice is clear, calm, and composed, which compliments her music perfectly.

As a musician, she is brimming with ability. Holly plays the piano, but without any pretense. She masterfully constructs music that is simple and unadorned. The piano doesn't draw your attention away from her voice, yet it is a power of its own. Occam's razor is definitely at work here; this simplicity, both vocally and musically, works very well for her.

Without having the album liner notes (the EP is readily available at a few places online as a digital download), I cannot say whether she wrote these songs on her own. Regardless, the songs are crafted well. "What I Wouldn't Give" takes the listener into unexpected territory with its interesting chord progressions. They are simplistic, but the artful departure from the standard major/minor chords just before the chorus accentuates the dramatic emotion of the lyrics. Likewise, "Saturdays" is a perfectly up-tempo, moody guitar song. Like her other songs it is dark, melancholy, and heavy feeling, but the use of silence and rests lends the song an empty, forlorn feeling akin to longing.

Finally, the lyrics are honest, but not in a brutal or self-deprecating way. She admits to mistakes made, offers up hope, and expresses maturity: for instance, "Heavy", a song about criticism, doubt, and honesty, showcases a strong and full cello that compliments the lyrics, but doesn't weigh the song down musically. Instead, it pushes along the straightforward chorus: "I will not weigh you down." These lyrics, like the lyrics on the entire EP, are not meant to grab attention with witty hooks or contrived rhymes, accompanied by garish backing vocals. The lyrics simply exist in the song: not catchy, not memorable, or rife with grotesque metaphors and similes. Again, this minimalism works to Holly's advantage. The fans of her music are going to know every note, word, and chord progression simply because they took the time to pay attention and think about every aspect of the music. As a result, Holly Brook may not find immediate, radio-friendly, MTV success, but she will likely build a following of very supportive fans, who will help spread her music to those interested. This is good for her and her label: the two are building a career based on longevity and not ephemeral, instant success. It's just a shame that, for now, the people catching on to her unique sound are forced to sustain themselves on a mere 5-song EP. We will all have to wait in eager anticipation for Like Blood Like Honey's release this June.

brainwavez.org Opinion
Rating: 9/10
Key Facts (Review Copy)
Artist: Holly Brook
Album: Holly Brook (5-Track CD)
Label: Machine Shop Recordings
Release Date: 30 September 2005
Genre: Alternative

Track Listing:
1. Curious ... 4:16
2. Wanted ... 3:57
3. What I Wouldn't Give ... 5:15
4. Saturdays ... 3:02
5. Heavy ... 4:16
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