“Gift From a Holiday” – Like Pioneers
While many great songs catch your ear through an obvious hook, others employ something I’m inclined to think of as a “moment”—a time and place in the song that sticks with you, that you look forward to each time you hear it, but yet is not big and bold and catchy enough to think of as a hook. Songs with moments rather than hooks can sometimes be even more alluring, because on the one hand the appeal is slightly more mysterious and on the other hand the end result can maybe seem more, I don’t know, organic—in that sometimes a big hook, however good it is, draws almost too much attention to itself. A moment, such as I’m trying to describe it, seems to flow straight from the energy of the song, whereas a hook, perhaps, flows sometimes too obviously from the mind of the songwriter, if that distinction even makes sense.
In any case, I hear the loose-limbed, Americana-tinged “A Gift From a Holiday” as a song with a moment, and that moment is in the casually delivered chorus, specifically that part of it when the rhythm of the lyrics changes, and orients for an extended line into three-syllable clumps (e.g. “wooden bench,” “left you on,” “crumbling”—and yes that last one is not strictly three syllables but is here pronounced that way). It’s an arresting moment, seeming to arise naturally from the story, and yet also with an air of oddness about it. What prompted that change, and how did this turn into the chorus? And what a strange chorus it is, lacking the sort of short, repeated phrase one expects, instead using two complete sets of lyrics with the same music, meaning we get another round of those syllable triplets (“picked me up,” “dragged me home,” et al), even more definitive-sounding this time. And not content for one good moment, “A Gift For a Holiday” offers another, beginning at 1:56, and it’s longer but still not really a hook. Here, the song shifts into a new section, neither chorus nor verse, with a sing-songy, declarative melody that repeats for 40 seconds before leading us into the extended instrumental section that becomes the song’s finale.
And maybe we can rightfully expect moment- rather than hook-songs from a project like this one, which gathered six musicians from a variety of Chicago-based bands (including Bound Stems and Chin Up Chin Up) over a couple of winter weekends just to make music, have fun, and see what happened. As it turned out, an album happened, which they called Piecemeal, reflecting the project’s makeshift origins. Released digitally this week via Abandoned Love Records, the album has also been available directly from the band via Bandcamp, where you can name your own price. MP3 via Abandoned Love.