Country of origin:
Type of music generally:
Beautiful & fierce alternative pop/rock
Most recent release, Chin Up Buttercup (2007)
Holly McNarland's site
Holly McNarland's MySpace page
Wikipedia's entry for Holly McNarland
Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Ani DiFranco, PJ Harvey, Heather Nova, Meredith Brookes
Own; occasional cowriting and covers
While Holly's energy level may be similar to Alanis Morissette's, she definitely has better range and control, and a sweeter, more musical singing voice. I hear Sarah McLachlan's harmonies mixed with Ani DiFranco's attitude and (gasp) Alanis Morissette's energy and sometimes her anger. It's a definite adrenaline rush!
I became an instant fan of Holly's Sour Pie EP, despite its basement production quality and inconsistencies. Or perhaps because of it, I'm not sure. ;) Later recordings take her to the realm of slick production that blends acoustic with crunchy electric guitars. Holly contrasts angry, sometimes dark lyrics with her sweet, powerful voice and harmonies. It's an addictive combination. (email@example.com)
anyone else think Holly McNarland sounds like Heather Nova a bit? (firstname.lastname@example.org)
She's got a great voice, and the combination with her tough lyrics makes for an interesting combination. (Neile)
I think Holly McNarland is one very talented musician. (email@example.com)
Her singing style is in a similar vein as Alanis Morissette, Meredith Brooks, and (sometimes) Natalie Imbruglia. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Comments about live performance:
When I saw her play live, I was really hooked, she is an amazing performer. (email@example.com)
Holly McNarland was tearing up the second stage. It was a strange show to see outside, as it seemed like a killer club show that looked really out of place in broad daylight. I don't know Holly's stuff that well, but live it just seemed like straight ahead rock and roll—a ton of energy but not a drop of subtlety. I recall a bit more depth in the cursory listens I've done to the album. (neal)
She only performed 4 songs, but made a lot of fans with her excruciatingly powerful performance. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recommended first album:
Sour Pie ep or Stuff
1995—Paradise Alley Productions, #702—916 West Broadway, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V5Z 1K7—PABD6284
Wide in the U.S. and Canada
Highly recommended for those who like rock-based music
Holly McNarland—vox, acoustic guitar
Mark Pully Blank—bass, b.m.p.
James Junger—electric and acoustic guitar
Chris "Weasel" Gorst—drums
This 6-track EP is a gem and has become a favorite of mine. Dark lyrics and atmosphere carried by Holly's sweet vocals make for an addictive contrast. I raved on about this back when it came out. It was a roughly produced demo that got picked up and distributed in Canada by MCA, and later in the U.S. on Universal. She has a soaring voice that kind of reminds me a bit of Sarah McLachlan, but the songs are dark and almost evil...I find her interpretation and passion addictive. Something about a sweet, beautiful voice loaded with negative imagery works a wonderful contrast here. She looks really punked out on the cover, but the songs are pretty much acoustically based with some electric instrumentation, and simmering with power. Not for everyone: if you're totally into that Caroline Lavelle CD, you may not be into this one as it's more rock-based, but check it out if you can. (email@example.com)
Five stars! Comparisons to Sarah McLachlan/Sinéad O'Connor/Ani DiFranco/Polly Harvey. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tough lyrics mixed with a sweet voice. A really interesting combination. I think it's much more consistent than Stuff (easier because it's shorter). I love this entire ep. (Neile)
Consistent, yes. But I think it's a consistently uninteresting album, whereas Stuff is an album with definite highs and lows, where the highs are just amazing moments. (email@example.com)
The Sour Pie EP was one of my top ten picks of the year. (Greg Dunn)
Think Sarah McLachlan, but incredibly bitter. (Well, okay, Sarah can be bitter sometimes, but these lyrics are PJ Harvey-bitter, Alanis Morissette-bitter (but more intelligent).) Definitely one to watch for. (Eric_Starker)
I am sort of mixed on it. I thought it was struggling to shock simply for the sake of shocking. It has a good sound, but some of it seemed sort of silly. Granted that I haven't given it many more listens. But I did have it on random this summer and was enjoying it as background music. Sooo...it must have a decent sound. I must give it a little more. (Horter3)
I've grown very fond of Sour Pie in the short time I've owned it. The first song, "Stormy", is a strong starter that instantly showcases her ability to be go from wounded warbler to fierce-but-subdued storyteller. Once that's established, she continues on with the other songs, all of which she gives good dramatic rising/falling action. That's mainly due to her mesmerizing voice. It's all given nice closure with the final song "I Won't Stay". I was reminded of Liz Phair, but that comparison has more to do with lyrical content than vocal style. Holly has accomplished on Sour Pie what many artists strive for with full-lengths. I wish this had been a full-length, cuz I'm achin' for more. (Plasterofstevie@aol.com)
1997—Universal Records, 2450 Victoria Park Ave., Willowdale, Ontario, Canada M3J 4A2—USD-53075
Wide in U.S. and Canada
Holly McNarland—vocals, acoustic & electric guitars
Mark Pullyblank—bass guitar
Joey Santiago—lead & rhythm guitars
Jay Joyce—additional guitars
I waited so long for this one, and it does not disappoint! This one rocks, and I've been playing it repeatedly since getting my hands on it. I think it is absolutely fantastic! It has some high-budget production on it, giving her a slicker sound designed to get her played on all those radio stations that like Alanis Morissette. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It's not quite as perfect and immediately catchy as Sour Pie, but is still pretty damn good. The cover art leaves something to be desired—she obviously likes being awful, though. Luckily, the music is wonderful. She has such a strong voice and strong delivery. The songs here just aren't as witty and are more didactic than on Sour Pie, and she seems to keep grabbing for the easiest rhyme which makes her lyrics seems a little dumb occasionally. I miss that lighter touch, but her delivery makes her songs compelling, especially such songs as "Water." And when I listen to her sing the wordless "Mystery Song" I begin to suspect I'd listen to this woman sing a grocery list if she did it with this kind of conviction. (Neile)
I heard Stuff at a listening station and ended up buying it. It was the first time I'd heard her and I really liked it. Very intense! I like her voice, the music blends rock and acoustic instruments very well, and this one does have that dark and driving sound that I love.
I feel the opposite of Neile regarding the full CD (Stuff) and the EP (Sour Pie)—I like the CD a lot but didn't like the EP very much at all. I wish I could be more specific about what I didn't like about Sour Pie, but I haven't listened to it for a while, so I can't remember. It just didn't grab me. The CD Stuff, however, has a lot of good songs on it. Not my favorite album in the long run, but I listened to it fairly often when I first got it, and still find it enjoyable sometimes. (email@example.com)
1999—Universal Music Group (Canada)—UD 53258
Wide in Canada
Highly recommended for fans
Holly McNarland—lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Mark (Superstar) Pullyblank—bass guitar
Tone (The Bone) Valcic—drums, percussion
Les (Da Lawnmower) Cooper—electric guitars, back-up vocals
Adam Drake—drums on "In the Air Tonight"
Joey Santiago—electric guitar on "In the Air Tonight"
Gaetan Schurrer—programming on "In the Air Tonight"
"In the Air Tonight" produced by Dale Penner
Wow, she really does go full-out live. I can understand what Neal says above about her live show lacking the subtlety on the albums, but this shows some amazing raw power—more even (if unmoderated) than on the powerful studio recordings. Highly recommended for Holly McNarland fans—I doubt this will otherwise win her many converts but I like it. The live versions aren't all that different from her album versions, so if you don't like her it's not going to change your mind, but if you do like her, you'll really enjoy this. (Neile)
Wow, she is so cool. A friend mentioned her to me a long time ago, calling her sort of like Sarah McLachlan, but harder-edged, and I agree with that, but to me it's more sort of a Sarah McLachlan-like voice meets PJ Harvey and Alanis Morissette. By that, I don't mean she's a clone in any way. With the possible exception of PJ Harvey, Holly probably has the most visceral impact on me. I feel her music, not only intellectually through understanding the lyrics, but I feel it in my bones, and live, it is that much more searing, especially on "Numb" and "I Won't Stay". I'd love to see her in concert someday, but this album will do quite nicely in the meantime. (JoAnn Whetsell)
Holly McNarland—vocals, percussion, additional guitar on "When You Come Down," "Brush Into My Tears," and "The Ride"
Dave Genn—guitars, keyboards
Warne Livesey—bass, keyboards, drum programming
Darryl Johnson—drums, bass, djembe, percussion, background vocals on "When You Come Down"
Les Cooper—guitars, lead guitar on "When You Come Down" and "The Ride," additional guitar on "Brush Into My Tears," background vocals on "More"
Ethan Johns—additional guitar on "When You Come Down" and "The Ride"
Tone Valcic—drums, keyboards, percussion
Joey Santiago—lead guitar on "Brush Into My Tears"
Ryan Dahle—additional guitar on "Brush Into My Tears"
Malcolm Burn—bass, drum programming
Josh Ramsay—background vocal on "Beautiful Blue"
Warne Livesey, Mark Howard, Malcolm Burn
I don't think I've heard anyone here mention this yet, but Holly McNarland has a great new album out, called Home Is Where My Feet Are. I've only had a chance to listen to it twice in the mornings so far, and haven't gotten all the way through yet (only due to time constraints, ie having to get to work on time) but it sounds great so far. It's lighter than her previous work, but it still kicks hard. The difference between songs like "Elmo" and the songs on this album is sort of like the difference between PJ Harvey's Rid of Me and Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. Definitely worth checking out. (JoAnn Whetsell)
Definitely a lot less rough around the edges, more sweetness, but there's still that seething rage underneath. We'll have to see if it grabs hold of me. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Highly recommended for fans of Home Is Where My Feet Are
If you liked her last album, Home Is Where My Feet Are, you'll enjoy the ep. (JoAnn Whetsell)
2007—Curve Music—CURV 9
Holly McNarland—vocals, guitar, kazoo
Jeff Dawson—guitar, programming
Chin Up Buttercup isn't as strong an album as Home Is Where My Feet Are, but it's still worth a listen. Some of the songs are edgier, á la the songs on Stuff, some ("Sweet Lazy," "Mermaid") are laidback, and some ("Da Da Da Da," "Every Single Time") are actually cheerful (in sound at least; the lyrics not so much). It's not as filling as her previous albums, but I do like it. "Memory of a Man" is the standout track and one of the best songs of Holly's career. (JoAnn Whetsell)
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