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Over the Bluffs

The Holiday Crowd

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Album Review

The debut from Toronto's dour indie pop darlings the Holiday Crowd comes in the form of this seven-song mini album Over the Bluffs. Expertly recorded, brilliantly performed, and electric in every way, Over the Bluffs is an inspired work. Five seconds into any given track on the record, however, reveal that it's inspired unwaveringly by the work of the Smiths. A huge percentage of anything calling itself indie pop is, but at a certain point, the Holiday Crowd sound so much like the Smiths they start sounding somehow less like the Smiths. It's not dissimilar to tuning into a movie halfway through and not being completely sure you recognize the lead actor, even though you're 99.9% sure it is who you think it is. Imran Haniff's vocals are directly informed by even the subtlest nuances of Morrissey's, to the extent that the obvious reference point starts to falter under its own weight. Slight similarities to Peter Murphy's vocals in the poppiest Bauhaus moments start to come into view. On "Painted Like a Forest," Haniff emulates a more Gene- or-Suede-style vocal, fast-forwarding a few years from the Smiths to their more revered followers. This obsessive imitation doesn't stop at the vocals, but feels less glaring in the chorus-heavy guitars, maudlin melody lines, and melancholy searching feeling that permeates Over the Bluffs. Nods to the faraway bedroom pop of Felt or the jangly wistfulness of the Stone Roses are scattered here and there amid the Smith-isms, as on the gorgeous final track "In My Arms." The largest criticism that's sure to be railed at the Holiday Crowd is the derivative nature of their style, but this is a rare case when it's way less a rip-off than a glowing homage. The strength of these songs suggest the band is beside themselves with adoration for the music of their favorite bands, and trying to make more music based (however directly) off of those blueprints. The Holiday Crowd sound not like plagiarists, but more like they studied for years at Moz University, down to the inclusion of subversive references to old girl-group songs (a pleading chorus from "Mr. Postman" dropped into the downright hopeless "A Tender Age") slipped covertly into their own tunes. Reactions will no doubt be polarized, but when the music's this good, the Holiday Crowd's derivative lean becomes another part of their charm.

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