My Galvanized Friend by Topher Holland is a guitar album masquerading as your more standard, ‘90s inspired, singer-songwriter fare. Sure, it has well articulated, multi-syllabic rhyming verses, slower piano ballads and high energy feel good pop tracks—but, amidst the variety showcased, there's also some funky guitar licks, some straightforward ‘70s rock-inspired slow burners and a pretty fair amount of virtuosic, seemingly-improvisational noodling strewn about.
All right, so I might be playing up the guitar aspect a little bit. At its heart, this album is loving homage to the ‘90s, namely the ilk of Ben Folds, the Barenaked Ladies, the Counting Crows and maybe even a little Incubus. Topher Holland dabbles a bit in a couple of directions from an almost waltz-y, almost honky-tonky romp on “Whiskey Soaked Ghost” to an instrumental, lead guitar driven song in the vein of Hendrix's “Little Wing.”
There are a few straightforward cuts on the album. “Terminal Velocity” opens the record in a classic ‘90s fashion, with channeled vocals and guitar before the low end rolls in, the vocals come to the fore and the whole thing opens up in just the way you'd expect guitar-pop to. “The Letter” is the quintessential sad bastard track with the piano and vocals song finding Holland at his most Ben Folds. There's even some genuine ‘90s funk/R&B on the cut “At The Bank Again” more jangly guitar and accenting horns than the Jamiroquai that might come to mind, but a pretty fun track none-the-less. Finally, sad-sweet song “Cadaver” also sees Ben Folds evoked, but this time against a wonderfully bittersweet descending chord progression and accompanied by superb lap steel part that simply makes the track.
Recorded primarily at Holland's home studio over the course of a couple of years, My Galvanized Friend is the work of a musician who's clearly got it down to a science—he's been doing it for over 25 years, since he was a kid. Holland is strongly rooted in his influences, which is hardly a bad thing, as it gives him steady footing to write and perform from. Despite reaching in a few different directions—and recording over the course of years—the whole enterprise is surprising cohesive.
My Galvanized Friend is an agreeable album full of balanced harmonies, strong musicianship and solid instrumentation; its greatest strength is also its largest potential liability which is its heavy-handed reach into the ‘90s. If you dig a handful of guitar-pop from that era, this is totally going to be your bag. If you stick your nose up at the un-ironic mention of Barenaked Ladies, this might not be your cup of tea.
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