WPGM Recommends: Holly Holden Y Su Banda – Tropical Soul (EP Review)

holly holden
Holly Holden Y Su Banda (which is Spanish for ‘and her band’) have recently released their first EP Tropical Soul. The band is comprised of Holly Holden (vocals and bass), Frank Clarke (guitar) and David Beauchamp (drums) and has been touring since 2014.

Both Holden and Beauchamp are collaborators of Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit frontman, Johnny Flynn, featuring on his excellent new album Sillion, and the band opened for the Sussex Wit on their most recent tour. However, the folk-rock of the Sussex Wit is nowhere to be found on the summery 6-song Tropical Soul, which instead takes its cues from Caribbean and Latin rhythms.

Tropical Soul begins with “El Impulso“, in which the grooving bassline strikes immediately. It is around this bassline that the song flows, with Holden’s vocals providing delightful distraction. The vocals switch throughout the song from English (which I understand) and Spanish (which I do not), but even when the lyrics are indecipherable to me, the enjoyment is not diminished even slightly.

A fine example of this is the chorus, which is sung entirely in Spanish, which coupled with the mixture of Latin and Caribbean groove, this feels right. Beauchamp and Clarke accompanying more than ably, particularly Beauchamp who has a masterful sense of rhythm which compliments Holden’s vocals and bass.

Clarke is also given his chance to shine. Throughout his guitar is subtle, and this doesn’t change in the sole with which the song concludes, but Clarke applies his instrument appropriately. “El Impulso” is a fine example of a song in which a band comes together perfectly, with each member complementing the work of the others.

The second song “Run” is also the first single from the EP. The Latin grooves that seeped into the opener are replaced by the bouncing rhythms of Reggae, and more prominence from Frank Clarke’s guitar. The song is also entirely sung in English, including a real earworm of a chorus, and Holden displays an impressive vocal range throughout.

If there’s one criticism to be made of “Run” however, it’s that “Run” is the least individual song on the EP. Understandably Holly Holden Y Su Banda were reaching for a larger audience with “Run” and given the chance they’ll likely find it, but in that reach they surrender some of the individuality that makes Tropical Soul such a lovely and surprising listen.

Dead Coral” marks the halfway of point of the EP, and the swinging Latin groove returns in full from the opener. At just over 3 minutes long, “Dead Coral” pushes on at a good clip, with the rhythm section of Holden and Beauchamp again driving the song.

It also sees Holden’s standout lyrical and vocal performance, with her voice blending superbly with the instrumentation. There is also a slightly aggressive tone to the song, particularly in the second half when the volume seems to step up, particularly from Clarke’s guitar, providing the song with more edge than its counterparts on Tropical Soul.

Mellow Drama“, the EP’s fourth song, once again turns to the intertwining rhythms of reggae, also incorporating horns skilfully, which adds excellent variety to the track. Once again Holden’s vocals are superb, inviting the listener into the song, and slipping in and out of Spanish and English lyrics seamlessly. There’s a slightly regretful, melancholy vibe to the song, that contrasts pleasantly with the slightly aggressive tones of “Dead Coral”.

The penultimate track, “Benji Muji Mau” is the most fun track on the album, with Beauchamp, Holden and Clarke combining to create an infectious groove that you can’t help but tap your feet too. Clarke weaves his guitar around the rhythm section superbly, and “Benji Muji Mau” is his standout track on an EP full of strong performances.

The chorus is another catchy one, Holly Holden Y Su Banda show a real knack for penning such on the album, with the chant of “Benji Muji Mau Mau” to begin the chorus infectiously catchy. As to what “Benji Muji Mau” means, I can’t say, but I also can’t say I much care when listening to tune that good.

Tropical Soul closes with the soothing “Born At The Right Time“, in which Holden’s vocals for the most part take centre stage, as the instrumentation generally subsides during her verses and choruses, but Holden has the voice to carry off such an arrangement. In the gaps however, Clarke’s guitar is again applied well, joined by horns, and Beauchamp’s talent for groove and rhythm is undiminished. Overall, “Born At The Right Time” provides a fitting end to Tropical Soul.

Holly Holden Y Su Banda’s Tropical Soul is a stand out EP, drawing on well established musical traditions from the Latin and Caribbean worlds, but providing their own sense of identity in every song. I can also confirm that they are also superb live, having been lucky enough to see them open for Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit at the O2 Academy. If they can continue to write such excellent tunes, there’s no telling what the future could hold for the threesome.

Holly Holden Y Su Banda’s Tropical Soul is out now, purchase it on Bandcamp here.

Words by James Smith

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