Patrick Holland is no stranger to ghosts. In the last several years, the Montreal-based musician/producer has become accustomed to odd noises, electronics breaking, misplaced items, and, on a recent occasion, a glass shattering spontaneously next to him. Annoying, to be sure, but he’s made peace with it; the unknown, after all, is only frightening if we allow it to be. This attitude is at the heart of Holland’s new album - addressed in part to an unnamed, pseudo-paranormal “other,” You’re The Boss is his first foray into guitar-driven indie pop, full of upbeat reflections on relinquishing control.
Like most touring musicians, 2020 found Holland at a crossroads. Known primarily for his electronic releases under aliases such as Project Pablo and Jump Source, he’d spent the last several years traveling the world playing DJ sets and festivals. Behind the scenes, he was also working as a mixing engineer, producer and remixer, lending his technical prowess to TOPS, Cut Copy, Jacques Greene, Homeshake, and more. In the standstill of the early pandemic, uncertainty manifested itself in the “ghost” - an amalgamation of Holland’s personal anxieties, the open-endedness of the future, and other unexplained phenomena. Rather than succumb to this doubt, however, Holland befriended it. “You’re the boss” became a sort of mantra in this effort, a reminder to surrender control as he dove into unfamiliar terrain. Over a period of several months, Holland wrote and recorded the album in tandem, playing most of the instruments himself as well as writing and singing lyrics for the first time in his recorded work.
The resulting record is a fitting re-introduction to Holland as an artist. Though it’s certainly a stylistic pivot from the house and ambient textures of his prior releases, the keen melodic sensibilities that have always underpinned his music are on full display here. Singles “Sinister Bell” and “Nice Try” feature earworm arrangements of sunny guitars and velvety vocal harmonies (including backing vocals from TOPS’ Jane Penny, David Carriere and Marta Cikojevic). Elsewhere, Holland mixes his otherworldly synth textures with saxophone solos, by Chris Edmondson, on tracks like “Sink to Dusk” and “The Shame Of It All” creating a moody, contemplative atmosphere reminiscent of his past work. Despite covering a lot of sonic ground, You’re The Boss also sounds remarkably cohesive, a testament to Holland’s airtight production and mixing capabilities.
There’s tension on this record despite its gloss, to be sure - experimenting with lyricism and singing for the first time was an exercise in vulnerability for Holland, and the resulting reflections find him grappling with self-doubt. Over catchy, upbeat melodies, he asks “Am I losing touch? / do I get out enough?” (“Losing Touch”) and “it’s all in my head / how long till it ends?” (“Running From Nothing”). These questions are left unanswered, and the album ends on an ambiguous note - sparse closer “January” features only one line: “I don’t want to go from here.” The ambiguity here feels intentional; in the end, finding the answer is unimportant. For Holland, honesty is its own resolution.
It’s ironic, in a way, that an album about relinquishing control would turn out to be such a masterful display of creative faculty. Long-standing fans of Holland’s, however, will find this unsurprising - there’s an easygoing precision to everything he does; a balance between painstaking attention to detail and affable ease. Though it’s full of firsts, You’re The Boss sounds like the work of an indie artist decades into their career.
released July 29, 2022
All songs written, produced, recorded and mixed by Patrick Holland
Additional vocals by Jane Penny, David Carriere, Marta Cikojevic, and Adam Byczkowski
Saxophone by Chris Edmondson
Mastered by Nik Kozub
supported by 9 fans who also own “You're The Boss”
Difficult to explain the layers of enjoyment felt when hearing this front-to-back. Immediately calming, ambient yet stirring. So many different portals into dnb, jungle, balearic etc; just when you think you're grounded by 1 sound or rhythm, the atmosphere begins shifting & expanding elsewhere... cherub420