Despite generally great critical response to this album and the first Holopaw record, being on Sub Pop, and a Modest Mouse connection, the band has yet to break out of basic indie-rock circles and into the wider public eye and this is a tragedy. I picked up Quit +/- or Fight on a whim, after hearing great things about the record from trusted sources (read: people on the Guided By Voices message board I have become unhealthily obsessed with). It is one of the most immediately beautiful records I've heard in a long time.
Holopaw is fronted by Jeff Hays and John Orth, who helped to create the one-off Isaac Brock project Ugly Casanova. The instrumentation on Quit +/- or Fight is sometimes similar to that celebrated, masterful record, but the overall effect is much different. Holopaw make the most beautiful and precious music in the world, but it is not cutesy or twee whatsoever. Sleepy would be a good word for it, delicate an even better one. Orth's vocals are impeccable - a whispered, semi-falsetto that wraps itself around the ambiguous, allusive lyrics.
The production on this record is mind-boggling. Everything in it's right place, to cop a phrase. Case in point, the second track "3-Shy-Cubs" which beings as a somewhat sparse and seemingly directionless composition with hand claps and electronic noises, but at just the right moment Holopaw pulls out all the stops and the song becomes a full on soft-pop anthem right before your ears. It's an astounding moment, and demonstrates just how sophisticated the writing and playing on this record is.
The rest of the record follows suit, and although the album has a definite atmosphere and feel that is somewhat downbeat and ethereal, the sound never bores or becomes too predictable. Holopaw are simply too good at what they do to let that happen. They also keep the average song length at around three minutes, demonstrating they know the value of traditional three-minute pop structure, although this is bent to their unique ends. An exception is the final track "Shiver Me" - which at nearly five minutes, qualifies as a mini-epic. It is one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous songs I have heard in a long time, and the mix of perfectly-executed acoustic guitar work, and a vocal performance that is simply beyond belief make it one of the standout tracks of 2005. Quit +/- or Fight is an essential release in a year that saw many lesser indie bands (Wolf Parade, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, et al.) garner much more hype with only a fraction of the maturity and talent of Holopaw.