Personnel: Bryan Rahja (guitar, ukulele); Sally Mullikan (violin, viola); Joshua Starmer (cello); Michael Stipe (trumpet).
Audio Mixer: Karl Kling.
Photographer: Jeff Howlett.
With Hold On, Bombadil pick up where they left off on Metrics of Affection in terms of style, settling into a sound that's less influenced by ethnic folk but still offbeat and acoustic-centered. Subject-wise, though still largely whimsical, there are significant doses of heartache on the album; their day-in-the-life, often charmingly loquacious lyrics spin forlorn tales of insecurity and reflection, as in "Love You Too Much" ("You said that you'd give me love forever/And I believed in you/And I believed you too/So what makes me stay by your side once you've turned away/I don't know but it kills me every day"). Guitarist Bryan Rahija left the band after Metrics, but still lends some guitar and ukulele to the record as a guest. The remaining trio of Daniel Michalak, James Phillips, and Stuart Robinson all contribute songs and play multiple instruments on the release. Hold On opens with a trumpet fanfare (Michael Stipe plays it throughout the album) on "Coughing on the F Train," announcing that there's more in store for the listener than a typical indie rock guitar trio may offer, and establishing broad melody, tight vocal harmonies, and catchy rhythmic playfulness. "Framboise," written by Michalak and Robinson while in France, is an impressive, non-standard rhyming feat, partly in French, wrapped in a sweet duet serenade. Among such playful tunes are the equally perceptive but more sincere "I Can't Believe in Myself and Love You" and the despondent "Sunny December," a piano ballad that has Robinson rambling about love after calling it a disease: "And love is not kind/It won't smile and it won't shine/It isn't there when you need it/You can't save it and you can't delete it." Alternately, from the "never a dull moment" files, "Rhapsody in Black and White" takes on race relations Bombadil style, opening with the line, "I was talking to my one black friend." The album ends warmly with the strings and vocal harmonies of "Love Is Simply" ("Love is simply/Something simple"), which the liner notes reveal was performed at the wedding of Hold On's mixer, Karl Kling. The record is perhaps the band's most endearing release thus far, offering, alongside their charming sound and more lighthearted material, relatable lost-at-love songs conveyed with their expert mix of humor and sincerity, pain and sweetness. ~ Marcy Donelson