Album of the Day: Steady Holiday, “Under the Influence”

Steady Holiday is Los Angeles-based musician Dre Babinski’s coming-out party after a career of playing alongside the likes of fun. and Fitz and the Tantrums. But Under The Influence, Steady Holiday’s terse full-length, compels because of the way it holds the listener at a distance. Shrouded in gentle waves of fuzzed-out guitars and glossy string arrangements, Babinski often serves as her own Greek chorus, tracking her voice on songs like the dreamlife fantasia “No Matter” and the bedheaded, regretful “Your Version Of Me” so that it sounds as if she’s commanding a clutch of ghosts in order to accurately depict her melancholia. It makes for a heady experience; even when the drums are crisp and the violins (played by Babinski herself) have a precision to their swoop, much of Under The Influence recalls whispering breezes and rippling ponds, gentle reminders of tumult held elsewhere.

Babinski usually avoids vibrato, instead taking on a vocal affect that brings to mind Trish Keenan’s matter-of-fact gloominess. But those moments when she falters bring the rest of the record into sharp focus. On the first-slow-dance shuffle “So Long,” she sings of bruises and endings; at one point, her voice buckles, sounding like she’s about to rupture her cool façade and adding emotional heft to the album’s free-floating grey cloud.

Maura Johnston

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