I’ve been looking for an artist to replace Fleet Foxes in my heart ever since they stopped putting out new material post-Helplessness Blues three years ago. And by God, I think I’ve found my new fix in Neil Holyoak. The folksy Canadian-American singer takes after the quintet with his picturesque lyrics, but the thing I like best about him is his professionalism. It shines through on his latest album, Rags Across The Sun, from its pristine cover to its clean-cut tracks to the overall depth of its sound. Rags Across The Sun is fresh, vibrant and will be the soundtrack of your fall, because that’s the feeling Holyoak evokes with his warm guitar melodies and tender voice.
Take album opener, “Marigold,” for instance. Before the song even starts, Holyoak puts the image of the beautiful flower in your head. Add an addictive and somewhat haunting guitar intro reminiscent of Fleet Foxes’ “Ragged Wood,” and you just don’t want to stop listening. It’s almost a synesthetic experience—Holyoak has seemingly captured what the seasons and their colors sound like, if they even have a sound. And he does this over and over again for the duration of the record.
Another standout on the album is Holyoak’s tribute to the artist who inspired him to make music, Townes Van Zandt. The song “Only Him Or Me” is gorgeous, soulful and softer than Van Zandt’s version, but would nevertheless make the late singer proud. Hell, it could even spark a revived interest in Townes Van Zandt if Holyoak eventually goes commercial (as he deserves).
Some might call the cover of Holyoak standing against a mountainous backdrop pretentious considering his hometown of L.A., but the album’s vibe goes along with it. After all, Holyoak is making folk music, and since he’s doing it right, nobody should care about the juxtaposition of his origins and the cover’s snowy peaks.
In A Word: Autumnal