Chicago indie rock quartet Pool Holograph’s fourth full-length studio album, Transparent World, finds frontman Wyatt Grant and company delivering nine sometimes challenging, emotive songs that prove you don’t need catchy choruses and poppy hooks to create something memorable. The combination of perky-yet-tense dual lead guitar interplay and Grant’s androgynous, highly dramatic vocal delivery create forward-thinking, original music that stands out in a sea of otherwise similar-sounding guitar-based bands.
Pool Holograph doesn’t waste any time getting down to business. “Codex Hammer”, the record’s opening number, kicks things off with quirky, comingling lead guitar lines that sound like twin siblings speaking to each other in a language only they understand. Wyatt Grant’s idiosyncratic singing style is best described as a slightly raspy, seductive moan that you’ll either find sexy and endearing or pretentious and irritating. If you’re not a fan of what’s being delivered from the outset, you probably won’t hang around for long, as the majority of tracks on Transparent World follow a similar blueprint stylistically with only slight variations in tempo.
The LP’s two strongest moments arrive during the second half. “Visitation” is a charming ballad that has Grant plaintively cooing cryptic, abstract poetry like, “Hands in the dark, you get locked up, shapes in the clouds, are hard to find now, clothed in the black light, you get twice blessed.” The song builds deceptively into what is anticipated to be an explosive moment, but instead shifts into a light, plucky solo that feels at once unconventional and appropriate. Transparent World’s second standout single, “Stratus Sheets”, is the closest Pool Holograph comes to a traditional pop song. Grant hits the track’s dynamic chorus firmly, seasoning each go-round with impassioned oohs, growls, and yelps. “Stratus Sheets” is not only a high-water mark for the album, but an apogee in terms of originality for the genre.
Transparent World will be a challenging listen for some. While indie rock aficionados will appreciate the skillful dual lead guitar work, Wyatt Grant’s unique vocal style and often abstruse lyrics may be a deal-breaker for the less adventurous. Overall, Pool Holograph’s latest release offers a decent showcase of the group’s sound and abilities. Listeners looking to latch onto something original will definitely be rewarded.