Common Holly ‘When I Say to You Black Lightning’ album review

Common Holly When I say to you Black Lightning

Common Holly follows up 2017’s ‘Playing House’ with ‘When I say to you Black Lightning’, an album that the press release claims will find Brigitte Nagar in a ‘rougher, looser, louder and more atonal’ place than on her remarkable debut.

The record opens with the eerie and evocative folk of ‘Central Booking’. This song opens with almost ambient noise before Brigitte’s ethereal vocals come in talking about trash cans full of blood and delivering a sten warning to someone who has just stepped into a new place that things may not be as they seem. She’s not talking about Twin Peaks and the big reveal may surprise you: ‘I’m sorry New York broke you’. She then follows this up with the slightly tongue-in-cheek ‘Now you’re lost in Cana-na-na-na-da’. Following this is ‘Joshua Snakes’ and its eye-opening first lines of ‘You’re like a hot, super villain at the top of your game’. This song found Brigitte having fun in the studio with flatmates’ conversations, fidget spinners and bouncing balls all making an appearance. It reminded us a little of that phenomenal St. Vincent and David Byrne record. ‘You Dance’ opens with a blast of traffic noise and blaring sirens before settling down with a warning of ‘don’t be afraid’. As the music veers more and more into anxiety pop, Brigitte continutes to reassure you: ‘Don’t panic. Don’t freak out’.

This stop-start alt-pop sound continues throughout ‘Measured’ and ‘Uuu’; the latter of which is the longest song on the album clocking in at over 4 minutes (!). Brigitte talks about a ‘band of hyenas’ being on the loose before then letting rip at the subject: ‘Everyone’s cold but you are colder’; ‘Build your fire and watch everyone burn. Is that going to make you feel better?’ There’s a more supportive tone on ‘Little Down’, a song with stirring strings and absorbing atmospherics alongside the lines: ‘Just hold your chin up, give your dignity a bow. Just hold your head up, keep your silence now’. ‘I Try’ is more fractured pop in the Tori Amos vein while ‘It’s Not Real’ finds Brigitte trying to move on from heartbreak and grief. The closing ‘Crazy OK’ starts off as a short and sweet anti-folk song (‘Don’t leave me, I’m crazy OK. In the evening when I tell you what I’ve done all day, don’t leave me, I’m crazy, I’m OK’ before a HUGE rock ending backs up the defining statement of ‘I got lucky meeting you’.

This is an all-encompassing listen that finds Common Holly embracing new sounds and territories with playful tones while examining the complex nature of modern life.

Catch Common Holly on the following tour dates:

11.26.19 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Poppolo
11.28.19 – Toronto, ON @ The Drake Hotel
12.02.19 – New Haven, CT @ Cafe Nine
12.03.19 – Washington, DC @ Pie Shop
12.04.19 – Philadelphia, PA @ Everybody Hits
12.05.19 – Princeton, NJ @ Terrace Club
12.06.19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Trans Pecos
12.08.19 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
12.10.19 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
12.11.19 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas Tavern
12.12.19 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
12.13.19 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
12.16.19 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
12.17.19 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
12.18.19 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord
12.21.19 – Los Angeles, CA @ Echo (Early Show)

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