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Album Review: OXBOW Love's Holiday

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Oxbow is a heavy rock band that embraces the avant-garde and the blues at the same time. Not quite noise rock as their songs do somewhat follow traditional rock structures and not quite punk, Oxbow are difficult to really categorize in terms of genre. However, in an extreme music scene that continues to push boundaries in these chaotic times, bands like Oxbow are a welcome reflection of the multi-faceted tumultuousness of the world outside of our headphones. Now in their 35th year, Oxbow brings us a record of ten songs that they tell us are love songs.

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If you're expecting ballads, stop. These particular love songs are really nothing like ballads with the exception of the blues-infused-indie cut "Million Dollar Weekend." In fact, these songs, in general, are really nothing like what's out there in the world of heavy music. Oxbow, in this respect, brings their unique take on love to a different plane than most are accustomed to. This is quite apparent on bangers like "Icy White and Crystalline."

Specifically, guitarist Niko Wenner tells us that Love's Holiday began with the music, "The music was chiefly inspired by and written for my family. We’ve had two children born and my father died while writing and working on this record. The songs are just a collection of music that I sang to my babies and then wrote guitar parts for and brought to the band as Oxbow songs." The explanation makes sense when listening to the warm "1000 Hours" and the powerfully touching "All Gone." The latter also features a choir to complement lead vocalist Eugene S. Robinson's soulful voice.

"The Second Talk" is a pulsing number that features some spoken word interludes mixed with a bit of noise rock and some punk-ish overtones. Similarly, "Gunwale," which is slower than most tracks on the record, is an amalgam of a variety of styles and voices that all come together in a rather unique composition that you really aren't hearing anyone else put together these days.

My favorite track on the record is definitely the album opener, "Dead Ahead," which also features a rather visionary video directed by Chris Purdie. "Dead Ahead" really demonstrates how this band blends and bridges a variety of different pieces to put together their tracks.

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"1000 Hours" has some groove and a clear juxtaposition of the sad with the beautiful. Lyricist Eugene Robinson says this about the track, "…filming the video, given that I just had surgery a few days before, felt very much like Mann’s ‘Death in Venice’ to me. You know where waiting to die never felt more beautiful, which really feels like the essence of love. Or at least one of them.” Similarly, guitarist Werner explains that, "1000 Hours’ began life with the bright, extroverted feel you hear most, but inevitably the darker introspective mood of the coda and intro emerged…"

One additional thing to note about the record are the auxiliary instruments and and voices that help craft the songs on the record. For example, Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota) adds her voice to the song "Lovely Murk," and a variety of other artists utilize the oboe, flute and clarinet to round out the tracks.

If you're looking for some music that is a change of pace from what you might be accustomed to listening, Oxbow is here to provide a reprieve from the ordinary and the mundane. Worth checking out.

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