Home Read Albums Of The Week: Those Pretty Wrongs | Holiday Camp

Albums Of The Week: Those Pretty Wrongs | Holiday Camp

The third time is truly the charm for the super-duo of Big Star's Jody Stephens & MVP singer-guitarist Luther Russell — assuming you dig lushly rendered ’60s pop & folk.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Having been a founding member of one of the most revered power pop bands of all time tends to be a footnote that follows you around. Yet Jody Stephens’ contribution to the pop canon goes well beyond his beginnings in Big Star, helping to refine alt-country with Golden Smog and shaping the Ardent Records legacy well into the current era.

Following the outpouring of love around the documentary, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, Jody reached out to his longtime friend, producer and songwriter Luther Russell to join him for some promotional appearances. A comfortability on stage became a kinship in the studio and eventually led to two albums as Those Pretty Wrongs. The comfort between the duo is key to what makes Those Pretty Wrongs work. Luther and Jody bounce ideas off of one another with the kind of natural symbiosis that most bands can only hope to achieve. They’ve internalized their past, their influences, their locales, and, most recently, the cultural weight of the past couple of years,creating what might be their most endearing set of songs yet.

Heading into their third album, the band found themselves crafting a record that’s autumnal, searching for solace, and yet unsettled. The title is a nod to both wistful summers at bygone British institutions, the favored gig fodder for their ’60s heroes, and the more sinister implications of Tommy’s Holiday Camp — communal, but with a cost. There’s a promise of hope in that turn of phrase, but there’s a slightly dark undercurrent peeking out behind the wallpaper. Those cracks break through most prominently on the simmering frustrations of Scream and the disheartened pleas of Paper Cup.

Despite some elements of unease, the record finds the pair as comfortable within the skin of Those Pretty Wrongs as ever, their past shadows retreating as the sun centers over the sky. The recent years of isolation, while upending plans for a post-Zed For Zulu tour, didn’t interrupt the band’s flow of songwriting. With Luther on the West Coast and Jody in Memphis, remote songwriting was already an old habit by this point, and over the course of the past few years the album began to take shape. While distance may have been inherent in its writing, the recording sparked reconnection in spite of the creeping constant of a remote roster. Holiday Camp finds more than a few friends turning up to lace songs with their contributions. Recorded from their own home studios, string arrangements from Chris Stamey, Moog from Wilco’s Patrick Sansone, and glockenspiel from Mitch Easter all bolster the record’s mercurial grace. The physical distance does little to dampen the sense of communal ease that holds tight at the album’s core.

With shades of home-grown Memphis power pop, nods to Apple Records alums, and an appeal that trickles down to fans of open-hearted pop from Emmit Rhodes to The Elephant 6, Those Pretty Wrongs draw the listener into an environment that’s familiar and fragrant. Luther’s arrangements have a timeless temperance that wraps around the listener. Jody’s songwriting is as honest as ever. Among the swells of strings and verdant instrumentation, his lyrics yearn for connection and commune, shake off isolation, burn those aforementioned frustrations and reach out to the listener. Holiday Camp is cool water in parched times. It’s a hand reaching out in the darkness, and a shoulder cry on. From the sunset serentity of New September Song to the pastoral chamber folk of Brother, My Brother, the songs blanket the listener in a bittersweet bliss. Jody and Luther’s harmonies have taken on a sublime alchemy. Like lost brothers found once more, they weave wonder into the pensive meditations on This Painted Sky, and the hopeful sendoff of The Way, as the band members find themselves poised to re-examine their past while excited to enter a new era with their most affecting album.”