Release Date: September 21st 2018
Oscar’s Hollow are a folk rock band based in Saskatchewan, Canada. After forming in 2016, the 5-piece wasted no time in building up an impressive catalogue of original material, which they showcased through a series of live performances around the local area. Following this, the band decided to take the plunge and cement their mark on the local unsigned scene by recording their debut EP in late 2017. The resulting self-titled product effectively showcases an immensely talented band with a great sense of chemistry and a real understanding of their sound.
The EP confidently kicks off with the upbeat track ‘Always Will’, which sees jangly guitar parts sat atop rock organ and a tight drum and bass groove. The track is firmly rooted in the folk rock genre, with subtle influences of both blues and country. This is a style which the band adhere to strictly and execute phenomenally well across the EP. My attention immediately turns to the vocal work, which is overall outstanding. Lead vocalist Lee Harris delivers his lyrics in a confident, albeit warm an intimate manner. This provides a real storytelling quality to the vocal delivery, which works excellently with the lyrical content and shows fantastic attention to detail. The band also make frequent use of backing vocals across the arrangement, which adds a wonderful sense of presence to the material and highlights key aspects of the lyrical content. As a result, this is a ball I’d very much encourage the band to continue to pick up and run with on future releases.
‘Mary’ is a more rock-influenced track with an irresistibly catchy main hook. Particular praise goes to Kurt Burnett for a very well-written drum part. He makes use of ghost notes and innovative tom fills throughout the track which add a real sense of flare to the arrangement without becoming overbearing. His tom fills also serve the primary function of guiding the band smoothly from section to section, which he executes very well. Whilst this certainly showcases Burnett’s talents as a drummer, it’s also clear he’s kept the requirements of the arrangement at the forefront of his mind whilst writing his part. This again shows good attention to detail as well as a great sense of musicianship. Additionally, there’s some wonderful interplay between the harmonica and lead guitar, with both instruments passing melodic ideas to and from each other. At this point, one of the band’s biggest selling points becomes apparent; their excellent chemistry and musicianship. The members clearly feed off of one another and the material is very well-written and arranged. This is something I’d very much encourage the band to place at the forefront of their marketing as it’s such a defining trait.
‘Better Together’ is a more laid-back track with a rich backing vocal section and a fantastic lead vocal performance. The lyrical content is also very good, being thorough and structured without becoming overly wordy. This is excellently suited to the genre and makes the material incredibly catchy. Particular praise also goes to Byron Shaw for a brilliant walking bass part. His melodic bass line forms solid infrastructure to glue the more sparse arrangement together and serves as a wonderful counter to the lead vocal. This again shows good attention to detail and comes across as exciting and adventurous without being overbearing.
‘Make Yourself At Home’ is another more upbeat track, interestingly featuring some subtle influences of pop and disco. The more sparse lead guitar work instantly jumps out, effectively highlighting key chord changes and providing a solid sense of support to the more laid-back acoustic guitar work. The mid-point of the track features some great backing vocal chants, which I thought worked really well and is something I’d very much like to see more of on future releases. At this point, my focus turns to the band’s sonic identity, which is overall very well-formed and thoroughly-channeled. Not only do the band consistently operate within the folk rock genre, but they’ve also carved out a whole host of signature traits for themselves. These include storytelling-esque vocal delivery, rich backing vocal sections and melodic bass work. This makes for a particularly impressive sonic identity that’s incredibly well-developed for a debut release, which is something the band deserve to be very proud of.
The EP rounds off with the six-minute epic ‘Too Young’, which reprises each of their signature traits and brings the entire EP full circle. Shaw once again serves as solid infrastructure to glue the arrangement together, with his part firmly anchoring the more ethereal-sounding synth, guitar and vocal elements. Finally, my attention turns to the EP’s production, which is overall very good and well-suited to their genre. The production takes a ‘hands-off’ approach, giving the material a great live feel. This excellently showcases the band’s chemistry and musicality and was certainly the right choice to make. All instruments are very well-recorded and it’s clear the band have taken adequate time to obtain appropriate tones and takes at the source. The mixing and mastering is also excellent, with all levels and frequencies being well-balanced and the production having a consistent feel to it from track to track, resulting in a consistent and coherent final product.
Overall, the self-titled debut from Oscar’s Hollow showcases a very talented group of musicians with an excellent sense of chemistry between them. They’re overtly aware of their sonic identity and are bound to go from strength to strength over the coming years. Highly recommended for any fans of folk rock.