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Album Review

Holiday, the debut album from Brooklyn sound collector Nick Principe's Port St. Willow project, begins with "Two Five Five Two," a rolling wave of ambient tones and buried found sound samples. While it's common practice for pop-leaning indie albums to start with some kind of tonal bedding, what's striking about this particular intro is just how long Principe lets its hazy layers linger before breaking into the low percussion and falsetto vocals that begin the next song, "Hollow." Minutes into the album, a sense of controlled purpose is established that very much guides the project. Taken at face value, a lot of the individual elements of Holiday don't have much impact, or could even seem like clichés of circa-2013 indie rock. The constant falsetto vocals brought into vogue by Bon Iver's breakout success, the spacious sonic backdrops punctuated by sharp, hooky instrumental parts, and even the shoegazey sheets of processed electronic textures seem like familiar approaches. However, the emotional thread that strings the songs on Holiday together transcends the elements that make the sounds. A sense of resigned, dignified heartbreak comes into focus early on, but not a wallowing self-pity or even a retelling of a failed love as much as a sense of someone looking in on his own life as an observer. The slow-burning "Amawalk" comes on equal parts haunted and humid, with its stop-motion mood churning from the slightest hints of R&B into a muted subaquatic horn section. Like a far more ambient look into the Sade remodeling of contemporaries Rhye, the song squeezes the sad heart of soul into an exhausted summertime stupor, hinting at emotional breakdown but too languid, lazy, or broken to tell the whole story. Patches of gurgly ambience help bridge the songs into one larger composition. The watery sounds that begin "On Your Side" and the Arctic currents that support the skeletal guitar of "Put the Armor on the Mantle" are just some elements that help tie all the sounds and movements of the album together. By the understated album closer, "Consumed," Holiday feels like a microscopic look into one person's trouble and loss. Instead of the theatrics that mark most sorrowful records, the album is unique in that it gives a very personal look into an individual's experience with catharsis, and it's one more of murmurs and heavy sighs than screaming matches and broken dishes.

Customer Reviews


Such a great album! So happy it's finally available to own and to cherish


Formed: 2009 in Portland, Oregon

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Port St. Willow is the solo vehicle of ambient pop artist Nick Principle. The project started in 2009 when Principle was living in Portland, Oregon, and melded textural atmospheric sounds with soft, slowcore song structures and falsetto vocals. A self-released first album, Even//Wasteland, appeared in late 2010, making the rounds in the form of a hand-stamped CD-R. Principle migrated to Brooklyn in 2012 where he finished and self-released a second album Holiday. Holiday made more of an impression,...
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Holiday, Port St. Willow
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