ALBUM REVIEW: Holiday Party – ‘Holiday Party’

Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer

Last year was my first BIGSOUND experience. Leading up to the event, I interviewed the lovely Teigan from local Brisbane/Gold Coast punkers and all round legends, Being Jane Lane. During the interview, we spoke of BIGSOUND because BJL was on the line up. I asked Teigan what bands and artists she was looking forward to seeing at BIGSOUND. She mentioned several, but the one that stole my heart from the moment I tuned in was Holiday Party. I tuned into their track, I’m Still Here. I played it once. I played it again. And again. And again. Until my son said to me “Geez Mum, you REALLY like this song huh!?”  – I did, I do. I have since followed the band eagerly, hanging on each new release. So when the news landed in my inbox that they were about to release their debut, self titled album, I jumped at the chance to tune in and write my thoughts and feelings down about this amazing Brisbane duo. 

Holiday Party is the magical musical project of the gorgeous Mel Tickle and Luke McDonald. A duo whose musical connection is as clear and warm as a sunny, cloudless day. On the album they also worked with other creatives including Peter Bernoth and Scott Bromiley. The album was recorded both in their homes and at The Plutonium Studios in Kelvin Grove. It was produced by Luke McDonald, mixed by Miro Mackie, with the exception of Will You, which was mixed and mastered by Jonathan Boulet. With additional engineering by Aidan Hogg.

Their music, as described on their Facebook page as ‘Junkyard Pop Music’, is, for me, a series of dreamy soundscapes; it’s a mix of emotions delivered through sound, with crystal clear vocals sprinkled with candy drops and glitter. Some tracks make me want to dance and move, some make me want to sit and contemplate life. And all of them make me smile. 

Mel Tickle’s vocals are honey dipped, crystal clear and precise, delicate yet strong, full of emotion and depth and yet there is simplicity about them all at the same time. A recent cover of the divinely eccentric and extremely talented Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting made me realise Tickle’s vocals remind me of Kate’s. Holiday Party’s cover of this song is pure heaven to my ears. If you haven’t heard it, please stop reading for a moment and tune in here

The album includes seven tracks. First up is Spending My Life. A song which features a sample of Luke’s son, Oscar making noises into a microphone, caught by accident when Luke was recording some old instruments at his parents house. The sample that flickers in and out in parts throughout the track sits nicely with the delicate vocals and steady, groovy beat of the song. A song that is seemingly a reflection of being stuck with parts of yourself that you don’t like as mentioned by Luke in his description of this song. Though even without having read that, I felt that upon my first listen: 

“At times I’m bound by my attitude
I’ll make you come back over my way
Seems like everyone’s mad with you
I’m sinking in an ocean of lows…”

No One is up next and this track has one of the biggest depths of sound on the album, the addition of a choir adds a new element of volume, both in sound and emotion. Mel & Luke decided to rally their own ‘Brisbane choir’ to give the song that extra layer of emotion through vocals soaring throughout the track over the cacophony of samples and instruments and Tickle’s clear vocal. Despite the echoing choir, the song still seems to feel light and airy, though the lyrics seem to be much heavier, perhaps telling someone that you once thought was special and important to you, is in fact, no one at all. For me, it’s like a revelation that someone who hurt you; that you once let hurt you, has no power over you anymore. You’ve moved on, you’ve healed. I immediately think of the infamous quote from The Labyrinth movie: “You have no power over me”. The song ends with beautiful harmonies from Holiday Party’s own personal choir. 

Moving into Something That’s Not Wasted. This one is super funky and upbeat with synths over the sound of a steady beat. There are plenty of layers here and again those trademark crystal clear candy-like vocals. There are moments in this track that remind me of an early, vintage cartoon like Betty Boop or the like. 

Let Down is up next, which was recently released as one of the singles from the album, along with a music video featuring Mel walking with determination and seemingly on a mission of sorts through fields, grass, dirt tracks, homes, buildings, down stairwells, through doorways. The vast difference of her surroundings as she travels through each place grabs me as if it was meant to be vastly different, just like the stages of your life can be, or the stages of a relationship: 

“…You’ve been
Left out, honey, been let down
Too many times…”

When I think About Love is the first track from the B side of the album. A song that sounds anxious and messy, but purposely so. There are synths and sounds and feelings in this track that remind me of an old black and white movie. There are no actual lyrics to this track, but a repeated gasp or deep breath sampled throughout. It’s like a story with no words. There’s a lot going on, though also, seemingly nothing at all. This song confuses me, but I love that. 

Without much of a break or a breath, the next song flows right off the tails of the last. Dream State is completely different to the last track. Lyric heavy and a much more organised mix of sounds, a consistent and repeated tune with strong vocals, sung with intent. It has taken me a while to think who Holiday Party reminds me of a little, and with this track, I realise that it’s Chaos Chaos. Chaos Chaos (formerly Smoosh) is an American Synthpop duo made up of sisters, Asya and Chloe Saavedra. I adore them and their experimental sound just as much as I adore the same of Holiday Party. I think they would be absolutely amazing on a line up together. 

The track that started my love for Holiday Party is next. I’m Still Here reminds me of a music box I had as a child. I am not exactly sure why, but there’s innocence in this song. Like I am a child again, laying on my sky blue carpet, watching the plastic ballerina in my jewelry box dance around while the tinkle of the music plays on repeat, until I need to wind it up again. Though the film clip that comes along with this one is quite the opposite, with Mel & Luke sporting exaggerated large eyes and a freakishly wide awake vibe throughout the video. Whilst the song is steady throughout, the ending is a relentless and loud cacophony of instruments and samples until the ending. This was the first song ever released from Holiday Party and as much as I love everything they’ve released since,  it is still my favourite. 

Will You is the closing track. The strong presence of loud music and samples again paired with candy vocals and an overall feeling of comfort and discomfort all at once. With jingling bells that make me think of Christmas time. Again I feel an innocence here and yet it also delivers a maturity, awareness and a ‘knowing’. Of the album, Luke has quoted: “The album chronicles a breakup. Whether that’s with a partner, a friend, or a version of yourself”.

This album makes me think deeply. Each track takes me somewhere. A mixture of innocent childlike emotions and feelings intertwined with that feeling of maturing, growing older, and knowing what life and relationships are all about, to some extent. Because no one entirely knows why we are here, or what life is all about, do they? 

‘Holiday Party’ is out NOW 

Follow Holiday Party:

Facebook // Instagram // Spotify // SoundCloud // YouTube

With thanks to Gyrostream

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