I was shocked at how deeply this record touched me. Ezra Holbrook is a singer/songwriter from Portland, Oregon. Now if that is not enough for you to feel pity for him…(just kidding). Actually, I think if the industry cared anymore at all about “scenes,” Portland has quite a bit going on. In any case, Holbrook’s Save Yourself is a deeply personal album and one that gets even more striking upon successive listens.
The title cut opens the disc, and it is a nice piece. But is was track three, with the oh-so clever title “Collide-Oscope” that really caught my attention. I put the CD on as background while I was doing some household chores, and suddenly just had to stop and make sure of what I was hearing. This song sounds like a lost track from the Flaming Lips’ masterpiece The Soft Bulletin (1999).
Now he had my attention, and the very next tune held me. “Heart Off Of Your Sleeve” sounds like one of those perfect country-tinged acoustic songs Neil Young is so famous for. What is so great about this type of music is that it comes across as seemingly effortless, yet you know the artist struggled down to his soul to get it right. In this case, the background vocals are what make it.
Ezra may be a little too clever for his own good however. “Architect/ Archetype” is just a silly title. But the song itself is fantastic. Using the familiar acoustic/country-tinged format – Holbrook lays out his case. It is a gorgeous arrangement. What really struck me though was his invocation of the ghost of Ayn Rand and, in particular, Neil Peart’s favorite book, Atlas Shrugged. You tell me if there is any other interpretation of a line like “Architects suffer the weight of the world.” It is spellbinding though.
From there we come to the reason I wrote this review. The finest song on the album by far is “Do People Bloom.” I was brought directly back to one of my all time Desert Island Discs: Pink Moon by Nick Drake. It may not be as doomed as that record is, and the sax adds some hope – but the vibe is there. I have never seen this guy live, but I imagine the women swoon to this song. And I could understand why.
Finally we come to “The Wrong, Wrong Eyes.” Again I am reminded of Drake, with a little of the softer side of the Lips thrown in. Very, very nice. Save Yourself is one of those regional records that makes you wonder if the artist could “make it” nationally. Who knows, but I have to say that it is damned tasty, in all the right ways. Worthy of a listen for sure.
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