Hearing the opening notes of Holly McNarland‘s first new record in five years brings back a sense of nostalgia for a singer who was so prominent on Canada’s indie music scene of the late 90s. Even though each of Holly’s four studio albums are separated each by five years, the void this time feels more potent since the release of her last album Chin Up Buttercup.
With Run Body Run, Holly returns to the familiar territory that formed her first album Stuff. The most notable of which is that the melody that plays the most important role in the tracks on this record which is also what keeps Stuff at the top of her discography. On Alone’s Just Fine, a song that takes into account the number of songs about heartbreak and losing love that exist, Holly puts a refreshing spin on it: “I hate to be alone sometimes/But sometimes alone’s just fine.” The song is perhaps the most fitting opening track for the album as it reminiscent of Holly’s lighter pop tracks from both Stuff and 2002’s Home Is Where My Feet Are.
While Holly never really digs as deep into the rock sound of older songs like Elmo and Numb, she doesn’t shy from the rock-flavoured hooks like those on Only Money and Dig A Little, the latter of which follows the same acoustic rock sound of Home tracks I Cry and Dallas. However, it’s the lighter songs that give Holly her brightest moments on the record, despite them being about the dimmer moments. After I’m Gone is a sobering song simply asking for forgiveness though it might never be granted. “If you hear this after I’m gone/I hope you forgive me/For everything I’ve done wrong.” Widow’s Pane tells of the last days of a man whose wife has died, placed over a simple country-music backing, as he inevitably gets closer as well. “The TV’s on again all night/white noise and scripted line/through these walls I’m waiting/for this love to go to bed.”
Although she has been nearly absent from the music scene for the last ten years, Holly hasn’t lost any of the qualities that made her stand apart from the other women that entered the Canadian music scene in the late 90s. Her popularity might have faded since, but her voice remains as striking as ever. Run Body Run will likely end up joining Chin Up Buttercup as a forgotten record in her discography where the early material will be what receives attention whenever Holly is thought of but like that forgotten album, it deserves more.
1. Alone’s Just Fine
2. Only Money
3. Dig A Little
4. After I’m Gone
6. You’ll Forget About Me
7. Widow’s Pane
10. Run Body Run