Sound Advice: Over the Bluffs by the Holiday Crowd
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Sound Advice: Over the Bluffs by the Holiday Crowd

Local rockers wax nostalgic for New Wave in their shameless dream-pop tribute to Scarborough.

The Holiday Crowd are no strangers to the Toronto music scene; Over the Bluffs is the band’s debut release, and they’ve been playing together for two years now. The group’s press release features a striking quote from Alan Cross that reads: “Close your eyes and you’d swear [“Never Speak of it Again”] was a long-lost Smiths track from 1985. It’s quite brilliant, in fact.” We’re not going to argue with Alan Cross; some of the best parts of the Smiths are right here on Bluffs, with delayed vocals, unselfconscious chord-change decisions, and sing-songy guitar licks. The influence of 1980s dream-pop is obviously at play.

But in making the decision to emulate such distinct musical styles, bands risk veering into pastiche territory. Lead singer Imran Haniff seems as though he’s doing a Morrissey impression at points on the album. Nonetheless, he has a beautiful voice, and as the band continues to write music, we hope to hear him expand his horizons. Still, there is obvious talent within the Holiday Crowd, and Morrissey comparisons aside, Over the Bluffs is very catchy. We loved “Tiresome,” “Pennies Found,” and the outro to “Painted Like a Forest.” Dream-pop recently permeated Pitchfork culture through the likes of Wild Nothing. Because of that, this album may see a lot of success. It won’t hurt that the mix is beautiful. It was done mostly by David Hermiston at Inception Studios. Two of the songs were mixed by Alex Bonenfant.

The Holiday Crowd describe their album as a love letter to Scarborough, Ontario. Within the New Wave narrative framework of songs written about hometown ennui, at first it seems a bit of a stretch to think of suburban Toronto cast in the role of an industrial, dreary England town for the sake of some sort of pastoral rejection—but we’ll throw them a bone. It is refreshing to hear a new take on Canadiana, with nary a harmonica in sight.

CORRECTION, February 16, 3:31 PM: Over the Bluffs is The Holiday Crowd’s debut release, not their second, as previously stated. The above has been changed.