Producer Keith Gillard and vocalist Ryan Slemko describe Hollowlove as a ‘moody electro pop project.’ It’s a perfect description, though I’m tempted to suggest ‘being behind one of the best albums of 2019’ as an alternative.
In comparison to a lot of retrowave, Hollowlove sail closer towards the mainstream. That’s not to say there’s no flavour or substance to their self-titled debut. Opening track “Hazard Lights” sets the stall out resolutely. Musically, it tends towards a purer form of 80s synth pop. Vocally, there are traces of Neil Tennant and Martin Fry in Slemko’s performance.
However Hollowlove don’t simply emulate 80s pop. They trade in contrasts, musically and thematically. “Reset” explores the anguish and appeal of…complicated relationships: ‘The lows and highs/pleasure and pain/keep us coming back again.’ It’s looking beyond the darker synth styles of their contemporaries, but it still has an edge.
“Diamond Mine” is 7 minutes long and builds slowly. The first minute and a half gradually introduces throbbing bass and glittering keys. Slemko’s delivery, combined with the pacing, leads us through deep sonic passages, where we’re are entranced by shimmering colours and lights. The conclusion gives the impression of reaching the surface and heading into the sun.
“I Love My Computer” contrasts something funky with a bleak commentary on modern ‘hikikomori’ instincts. ‘Cause it hurts my eyes/When the sun is shining/ Through my window blinds’ paints a vivid picture. ‘I must confess/I love my computer/Just a little too much’ nails it to the wall.
Hollowlove’s lyrical skills are one of their defining characteristics. “I Love My Computer” is a good example of this. “Serpentine” is a great example of this. It’s a scathing fuck you to a selfish, superficial reptile of a human being. ‘Don’t you know you’re not/the sum of your possessions?/You must think that love/is just a modern invention.’ Slemko repeatedly whales on “Serpentine’s” subject; leaving no ambiguity about what they should do: ‘Crawl back in the ground/with your dead friends/your oily kin/where you fit right in.’
The instrumental “River of Crows” represents Hollowlove‘s ‘moody’ side in a direct, dynamic way. It speaks to the Perturbator fan in me, with its precise, captivating dark energy. It mixes things up, providing some welcome variety without detracting from every track around it.
On January 1st of each year, I create a document. I use it to track and rank every album and EP I listen to. As it stands, I’m getting very anxious about how I’m going to narrow things down for my year-end Top Ten. What I can say, with confidence, is that Hollowlove is going to rank pretty damn highly.
You can find Hollowlove here: