COMMON HOLLY: PLAYING HOUSE
Montreal is a lively city that cultivates creative artists. It’s a hub of arts and culture, giving us musicians such as Milk and Bone, Arcade Fire and the iconic Celine Dion. Within each metropolis, there are people creating pockets and caverns for their own vision of music. One of those innovative musicians is Brigitte Naggar. She is building a world so dark and haunting, we have no choice but to shine a light on it. Within an industry saturated with off-key vocals and repetitive lyricism, Naggar brings a fresh take on what it means to be an artist in the 21st century DIY scene. Under the alias Common Holly, we see Naggar expose her inner demons on her freshman album Playing House. The album consist of honest poetry, chilling guitar chords and genre-bending melodies.
Throughout most of the project, we hear Common Holly share beautiful and vulnerable music but there are distinguishable moments when she loses her authenticity. Tracks such as “Nothing” sound like covers of a Frankie Cosmos song. Her voice sounds indistinguishable from any other Mitski or Angel Olsen project. Don’t get it twisted, these are outstanding artists but they already exist and they are currently dominating the scene. For other artist to stand out, they must create their own space. The song “Nothing” is clearly a single to be digested smoothly and quickly. Although palatable songs do have their place in the world, they’re unimpressive. These times are sparse throughout the album but they reflect an artist who is still developing and deserve to be analyzed just as intently as her authentic moments. A majority of Playing House is comprised of complex arrangement. “Nothing” is sandwiched between two very polished and profound tracks. The opener of the album, “If At All” is an exciting start to Common Holly. There’s an uplifting vigor in Naggar's voice that is reserved only for this song. If Playing House resembles an English class essay, with an intro, chunky body and conclusion then the thesis is chanted by Naggar in the beginning, “Let's take this one day at a time.” This line gives premise to the rest of the project, instructing the audience to take each song, melody and word, one at a time.
The album standout is by far “The Rose.” This track is when all of Common Holly's talents and capabilities harmonize. The song carries the same haunting tone that ties the album together but this time Naggar brings depth and complexity to her production. At two minutes is when the song could have justifiably ended but instead the melody takes a break for just one second and picks right back up with a stellar guitar accompaniment. Naggar continues humming, hypnotizing her audience. Her ability to turn simple guitar chords into eerie arrangements is mesmerizing. Her voice transports the listener deep into her world of dark dissonance and self-reflection. Naggar admittingly says, “I’m going to need some distance, some time alone.” This album is the resolution of persistent memories which is not to be confused with nostalgia. Nostalgia would imply a sense of longing and yearning for the past. Playing House is the attempt to keep the past at bay while simultaneously looking towards the future. Listen to Common Holly's Playing House and see if Brigitte Naggar accomplishes the nearly impossible task of reconciliation.