Back in April, “Broken Car Radio” managed to raise a lot of eyebrows after its Stereogum premiere. The song was an enigmatic wonder, from an act that seemed poised for a breakthrough. After digging through the works of Francis Shannon, the person masterminding the Hollowtapes project, the reasons for that poise began to fall into place. Shannon’s been steadily improving as an artist for several years now, jumping from one project to the other with an impressive amount of grace and a very clear, ascending trajectory. “Broken Car Radio” was the culmination of Shannon’s work and has become — and will likely remain — Hollowtapes’ most formidable small-scale calling card.
The Tall EP, the release that houses the miraculous “Broken Car Radio”, is now just around the corner. In addition to that song’s awe-inspiring scope and masterful blend of bedroom pop, shoegaze, basement pop, and traces of noise. It’s in the latter element that Hollowtapes finds its most defining characteristic; many of these songs are built with beautiful, almost pastoral foundations but it isn’t until they’ve become warped by intentional damage that they start feeling singular. It’s a trait that Tall wields like a weapon, battering the purity that lies at the root of each of these four songs until they sound comfortably lived-in and surprisingly warm.
“Strange City” finds that damage accelerating its scintillating guitar sections, which see the song transforming into a fire-breathing, riff-heavy monster while the ensuing song, the release’s easygoing title track, finds the damage embedded into its very heart, materializing in both the song’s compelling world-weary lyricism and its slow-building instrumentals. All of the release up to that point is so overwhelmingly inviting that by the time Tall‘s climactic, towering closer kicks up, the running time of the EP hasn’t been felt and there’s a very strong desire for more; everything is so expertly nuanced, produced, and paced that just four tracks winds up coming across as a tease, albeit a spectacular one.
It’s in the final track that Tall finds its most definitive notes and a decisive final note, allowing the EP to stand firmly as a complete entity. Everything falls into place so neatly in “Nerve” that its tempting to say Shannon has perfected the Hollowtapes formula. From the astonishing dynamic range to the song’s palpable sense of gritty, personal determination, it’s a work that instantaneously creates an indelible impression. Just as importantly, “Nerve” allows Tall to complete its very serious bid at being an unlikely classic, ending an awe-inspiring run of material that shouldn’t be ignored.
Bruised, gorgeous, and relentlessly its own, Tall is the kind of release that deserves a spot in any serious music collector’s library. With the EP, Shannon establishes the Hollowtapes project as a serious force and takes a swing at the fences. Fortunately for all of us, Tall connects emphatically and arcs high enough that one wonders if it’ll ever come back down. It’s an exhilarating new era for one of today’s most intriguing emergent acts, make an effort to keep up and the rewards promise to be breathtaking.
Listen to Tall below and pre-order the EP here.