The first full length album from The Holy Knives, Year of the Black Dog is the perfect soundtrack for staring off into the distance thinking about nothing for approximately 40 min, or maybe 80 min – entirely dependent on how stoned you are and whether or not the album started over without you noticing.
The Holy Knives self-identify as “desert dream rock” and it’s a fitting genre descriptor for Year of the Black Dog. The songs are slow and sultry, laced with the haunting baritone vocals of younger brother, Kody. It’s rock ‘n roll with a dash of psychedelia, and a heavy side of melancholy dreamscape. I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not exceptionally well-versed in desert dream rock, and neither is Spotify, apparently. Starting a song radio for single, “Stray Dog,” Spotify returns only a mix of The Holy Knives and La Luz tracks. So – if you dig La Luz, there’s a good chance you’ll hook into The Holy Knives.
Putting that aside, there’s no band or album that jumps out as a good comparison for Year of the Black Dog. And that is so. Fucking. Fabulous. Listening to original music that doesn’t sound like a synthed-out, chopped up, auto-tuned regurgitation of something you’ve heard, quite literally, one hundred (or more) times, is pretty refreshing. It also helps that the album is actually good.
The individual songs stand well on their own and come together nicely for a cohesive 10-track album. This end product is no doubt due in part to the Valentine brothers’ prolific writing abilities. In the past year they’ve whipped up over 100 songs and candidly selected those that represent who they currently are as people, and the type of music they want to create. The two have worked consistently to define and refine the image, sound, and ethos that make up The Holy Knives. Sometimes it feels like they’re trying too hard, but let’s be real – that’s a nice change of pace from the overcooked, reckless-party-boy-railing-coke spectacle that rock ‘n roll is all too familiar with. Oh, you want to take your craft seriously and put forward a fused, professional presentation backed by talent and hard work? Please, be my guest.
For better or for worse, good songwriting and hard work will only get you so far. Lucky for us (and them), The Holy Knives assembled a production team that has been around the block a few times. Recorded in the deserts of West Texas at Sonic Ranch, Year of the Black Dog was produced and mixed by Latin Grammy-nominated producer Manuel Calderon (The Chamanas, Nina Diaz), who helped shape its desert dreamscapes. Calderon’s bandmate in The Chamanas, Paulina Reza, provides backing vocals on multiple tracks, providing a perfect foil to Kody’s vocals.
If you’re not a full-album-listening-session enthusiast, tune into these tracks (in addition to the singles, “I Guess It’s Enough” + “Stray Dog”): “Switchblade Heart” + “Loose Tooth” + “Don’t Tear Me Out.”
Drawing musical inspiration from acts such as Timber Timbre, Arctic Monkeys, Beach House, and Portishead, The Holy Knives’ could be imagined performing at the Bang Bang Bar from Twin Peaks or playing in a True Detective episode. Their belief is that music is a sacred weapon you can use to ward off the march of reality.
Sign me up for that shit.
Written by Libby Day