Robert Holley, lead singer and principal songwriter of the retro-indie quartet Airline, possesses a dry, off-the-cuff delivery that makes even his most intriguing lyrics come off stress-free, as if he's capable of keen introspective at the drop of a hat.
Airline's heady debut, Farewell Republica, features casually delivered, yet fully developed, ideas that prove Holley's gift is no fluke.
Mixing lush, off-kilter pop with interesting nods to alt-country (check out the wailing pedal steel of Joe Butcher on "About to Bend"), Farewell Republica inhabits a realm all its own, a fascinating locale where Badfinger, Pink Floyd and Joe Henry gleefully co-exist, kind of like the Decemberists if Colin Meloy watched The Simpsons instead of Masterpiece Theatre.
On the album's best cut, the surging "Denmark," guitars give way to strings and then Ryan Smith's keyboards sustain the mood until Holley re-emerges, carefully orchestrating the beautiful mess back to his words, some poetic, others trivial. The song nearly succumbs to the weight of a few too many stylistic diversions. Thankfully, like the rest of Farewell Republica, it's all a part of the fitful push and pull of past and present, as Airline finds a way to envision Gram Parsons singing for Joy Division. Detailed, dramatic and not a little dense, this is local music of rare insight, by a band demanding a following.
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Download Airline's title track "Farewell Republica."