The opening chords of Kiersten Holine‘s album are calming. The mixture of strings and vocals reveal a strong influence of William Fitzsimmons and, perhaps, a bit of Iron and Wine. Holine’s vocals, which we’ve written about before, are exquisite. They are, in some ways, understated. She’s not a front-of-the-stage diva… she’s more the behind-her-guitar troubadour… and we like it that way.
Candescent, Holine’s singer-songwriter album, provides a wonderful mixture of flavors. The best part of the whole production is that it captures intimacy in a very tangible way. It just feels close. It’s comfortable, like a toddler’s “blanky.”
Holine’s songwriting has been incredible since Ignoble and its clear she’s learning from some of the best. The lyrics on “Queen of Hearts Blues” goes beyond the standard love song fare. She writes, “I was a name on a page, I was a fix for a phase, I was a muse for a writer’s block…a story told of a foregone failure, heard the click and felt the shock. I would keep you if I could.” Wow. Those aren’t flippant words. Her lyrics cut right to the quick of what must have been a painful moment, but the colors in these words are vibrant.
Holine worked with acoustic artist Jeff Pianki on “Realigned,” a song that has a wonderfully full sound. The instrumentation and vocals balance for a placid, yet rich sound. Pianki’s harmonies are subtle but still enrich Holine’s lead. It’s a very natural duet.
“Lullaby to Self” is the epitome of lo-fi. That said, it’s a wonderful song. It represents what we love about Kiersten Holine… a girl and her guitar. When her harmonies come in, it changes the vibe of the song a bit, but we still like that it’s a unique tune.
The unprecedented “Keep You to Hold On” captures the acoustic sweetness of much of Holine’s sound, but does so with a completely different structure. It sounds more like something from Fleet Foxes than a Holine original, but it’s really good. Even the vocal styling sounds more soul than most of her discography, but it’s not a bad divergence.
“I built a sailing ship for you…” The opening sentiments on “Faulty” are wonderful, showing a dedication to someone special. “My target was apparently misread…” totally a concept we can relate to. This is probably the best Holine original since “Ignoble.” It’s quaint, but not in a reductionist way. The guitar is delightful. “I’ve been building all these hopes since I don’t know when… and all you see are failed attempts.” What a deeply romantic and personal line over top of a soft, enjoyable acoustic guitar.
Overall, the album captures the essence of an immensely talented singer-songwriter. From her YouTube covers to now, it’s obvious that Holine’s practice is paying off. We’re hoping she’ll continue making music. We’re a big fan of the simpler songs like “Faulty” and hope there are more songs like it in future recordings. But for this year, we think it deserves a spot on our songs of the year watch list.
We got a chance to ask Kiersten a few questions about the new album, so we’ll include her comments here:
1) What genre do you consider your music?
I’ve always had trouble answering that question. It’s a bit strange to categorize my own music. My best guess would have to be indie folk/singer songwriter.
2) What were your most important influences in writing this album?
My influences have evolved a bit since Ignoble. I feel like I used to have only a few music staples that would inspire my songwriting. Since discovering more and more great music, I’ve been influenced by a much wider range of artists.
David Bazan has become an incredible musical example to me over the past few years. His boldness in writing (lyrically and melodically) consistently blows my mind. His work has given me significant motivation to experiment more and not be afraid to write about something I’m passionate about or take a different musical step that might be not be quite as accessible as my previous work.
S. Carey, Damien Jurado, A.A. Bondy and Blake Mills were also quite influential to Candescent as well as close (extremely) talented friends of mine like Jeff Pianki, Caleb Groh, Michael Pierce and Marko Kurtovic. I have two older brothers so the male influence is always a bit inevitable.
3) Do you think you’ll be touring with this album at all? If so, when?
I hope to, yes! This fall seems like the time it will occur. I’ll have more details the sooner I know what my schedule will look like.
4) What’s your favorite song to play on the album and why?
I really enjoy playing Keep you to Hold On. The chords in that song were different than anything I had used before. It’s so fun to play something unlike what you’re accustomed to playing…just adds a bit more excitement and diversity to a live set (on my end and hopefully the audience’s as well).
5) What would you like our readers to know about your music or this album in particular?
Candescent represented another important phase of my life that involved a lot of growth and renewal… allowing myself to be realigned and formed into a changed person with evolving opinions, feelings, and beliefs. Every song is extremely personal to me and self revealing in a number of ways. I hope others can connect to it in some way or another!
To enjoy Kiersten’s entire album, check it out on bandcamp.