The Holy Dark
Pretty Little Bird
(Dodgeball Records)

Pretty Little Bird isn’t necessarily the first thing you would associate with Halloween, but deep down within its fibers is a dark and somber vibration that flows with each breath and beat. The Portland, OR based gloom/folk act of The Holy Dark is excited to share their latest release on All Hallows’ Eve. While the instrumental elements of Pretty Little Bird are fairly to the point in regards to giving off a folk sound, it’s as the album grows that they come together to create this blend of cosmic mystery.

The record begins with “Guilty and Out Of It”, starting with a gentle rhythm of guitar strums and misty vocals. Bells begin to pop into the track, adding a brightness to the material. Even though there is a strong tone in this, it’s when the chorus bursts that the track comes with this sense of unease. There’s a weird undertone that is present throughout the song, shivering under the guitar. This sound grows into a haunting and gothic wail, making for an abrupt entrance towards the end of the material. “Poison Oak” forgoes much of any darkness, and focuses on an upbeat tempo thanks to faster drum work, including a more colorful guitar sound.

At this point some folks might be wondering where the presence of those gloom qualities kick in. Thankfully The Holy Dark don’t wait too long, with their third track “Lit By Lantern” shifting the record into a new direction. The instrumentals still provide a brightness to them through the use of bells that are sprinkled through the song, but it’s the guitar tone and vocal inflections that wash the material over in a shadow. There’s a melancholy tinge that gives this western vibe to the work and provides an additional layer of emotion.

One of the strongest elements of Pretty Little Bird is the emotions that come through the work. This is either thanks to the instrumentals and their dark and melancholy tones, or how the sound weaves its way around beautiful inflections of vocals and lyrics. “Backfire” is one of the best examples of this combination, as the track begins with an immediate contrast compared to previous songs. The instrumentals take an immense step back, making for a backdrop of ghostly minimalism. Rather than bursting out, the vocals waft their way into the material, settling into the instrumentals and creating this somber aura. Pretty Little Bird’s lyrics also pack an emotional and symbolic weight, with lines from “Backfire” such as, “Into the rabbit hole forever/ I’m gone forever/ I’m gone forever/ I won’t come out/ this only will backfire.” The lyrics throughout the album breathe with existential questioning and mystery, striving to make sense of darkness. “Tipping Cradle” comes with that western tinge, giving this playful nature in the beginning. The track opens on the line, “Frankly I’m done pretending to be stronger”, setting in this dark presence alongside a somber instrumental rhythm. The material as a whole breathes this heartbreaking essence in how it keeps to a consistent lonely and dark atmosphere in the guitar.

Pretty Little Bird is a beautifully haunting release that plays with moments of brightness and a variety of emotions. These emotions spin around the listener, creating a sense of wonderment and adventure that encourage inward searching. The album is a delightfully somber experience that makes for the backdrop in either kicking back and thinking, or wandering through nature. The Holy Dark is an experience that wrestles with ideas of cosmic exploration, presenting instrumentals that are both mysterious and enchanting.

Purchase the album here.

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