Artist: Holobody

Album: Riverhood

Riverhood opens with two distant echoed voices in solemn harmony. The song, aptly, is called Unfold. Finger-snaps join, then foreground voices: Luke Loseth, tenor, sings a long, agile melody while his sister Charlotte, soprano, wordlessly decorates around him. Piano enters, heavily echoed; so do less-identifiable drones. It’s a gorgeous track. It merges smoothly into Hurricane Season, what hip-hop might have been if invented by Brian Eno to help his 10-year-olds play when they weren’t in aggressive moods: giddy, full of put-on voices that weave intuitively among each other, while dozens of different melodic tones and soft percussion bits whir into being and then vanish.

Way the World Goes Round is basic folk-guitar children’s-album fare, and quite convincing, but the singers’ voices are echoed and distended, while the xylophone’s plinkings wobble in and out of tune. Plus there’s drones that wash over the track by the end. Down to the River to Pray begins as a-capella gospel, and could absolutely have worked without any instruments intruding. But the first gentle folk-guitar accompaniment is the Trojan Horse for an invasion of more piano echoes, drones, abstract fuzztone, and darting vocals lines that get ever more labyrinthine, until it approaches the Beatles’ a Day in the Life in peak intensity.

Albums in love with drone can aim to be ugly or beautiful or just alien; I prefer beautiful. But it’s my experience that albums in love with drone will short-change words and tunes, or even jettison the entire idea of the human voice. Holobody have made, in Riverhood, a beautiful debut in which the drones assemble songs together, and singing is pre-eminent. To me, this is a welcome experiment.

– Brian Block

To see the rest of our favorites, visit our Favorite Albums of 2012 page!