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Timeless is a word that's often bandied about, particularly when discussing modern records with a distinctly nostalgic vibe. It's a word that springs to mind when listening to Holly, the second record from Californian singer Nick Waterhouse. Awash with whirling electric organ chords, muted guitar riffs and sharp bursts of horns, it's certainly evocative of a particular time in American music history. It's easy to lump Waterhouse in with other soul revivalists, but that would be to take a rather cynical view of an artist who clearly treats the era he recreates with reverence.
From the funky stomp of album opener 'High Tiding' right through to the sultry soul of closer 'Hands On The Clock', Holly is an enjoyable, well-produced record that, whilst it doesn't offer anything new to the soul genre, reminds us of how fun and infectious it can be in the right hands. Waterhouse easily balances the more up-tempo, foot-tapping tracks with the albums occasional forays into slower jams and a more melancholic sound, such as 'Let It Come Down'.
For the most part though, Holly focuses on the more up-beat with light, catchy drum beats underscoring quick flourishes of brass on 'This Is A Game', simple electric piano melodies and saxophone solos on 'Dead Room'. Throughout Waterhouse's soulful voice melds with the instruments, crooning and yelping, capturing the vibrancy typical of classic soul records, and sometimes sadly missing from today's pop.
Holly is also an album of brevity. Most tracks barely last longer than three minutes, the longest track 'Hands On The Clock' falls ten seconds short of four minutes, and as a result the album is over in 30 minutes. All too soon really, but it also works in Holly's favour as it recalls the length of the old soul LPs the album is inspired by, and it means that the tracks themselves don't outstay their welcome, conversely the leave you wanting more. Tracks like 'Sleepin' Pills' with its souring harmonies and intricate guitar and piano make for an album highlight, with the solo towards the end marking the rare occasion that the album lets loose.
In a way, this emphasises the main problem with Holly. Whilst it's certainly performed with skill and respect for the golden era of soul music, there's a sense that it's a bit too tightly controlled. When Waterhouse allows the music to move freely, such as during the organ solo outro on 'This Is A Game', and the latter third of 'It No. 3' with its glorious piano breakdown, then Holly excels.