Lost on Purpose – Anniversary EP

Lost on Purpose
Anniversary EP

Since when did Elliott Smith become the guy that every male singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar become compared to. I blame Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, because even though Smith was known before Good Will Hunting, his spots on that soundtrack put him into the public’s consciousness (along with “How about ‘dem apples?”). Smith wasn’t the first to couple nice vocals with melancholy or personal lyrics and acoustic guitar. Sure, he did it well, but it’s not really fair that every musician in the genre be compared to Smith, as if he was the groundbreaking artist who first took up the acoustic.

That being said, Elliott Smith is a good starting point for Lost on Purpose, the one-man project of Wil Holland. This is Holland’s fourth release, and I regret I’ve missed reviewing a few of them, but each is enjoyable in its lo-fi singer/songwriter sensibilities. That being said, Anniversary is Holland’s most polished release to date as well as his best. Technically, this is acoustic singer/songwriter material, but it’s the little flourishes that Holland adds to his songs that set them apart from a Smith sound-alike.

The album opens with “London,” which, due to its lyrical style and softly strummed acoustic guitars, sounds like a stripped-down Modest Mouse track, and I like that comparison the more I hear this track. Because Modest Mouse songs could easily become singer/songwriter songs (as Mark Kozelek recently showed in his Sun Kil Moon project). I’ll take that on to “Ohio 2,” a more upbeat track that uses some nice piano to accompany the guitar, and when hand-claps provide a bit of rhythm, the song feels even more poppy.

Rhythm comes in on the playful feeling “Lonely Road,” but other songs take an even more stripped-down approach. “Ophelia” is fairly simple, with just guitar and voice, but a layering of vocals gives it a nice touch. In contrast to that song’s ultra-lo-fi approach, “Centum Cellas” feels far more rich, and the guitar here is gorgeous. Again Holland’s singing style is unique, reminding me perhaps of Daniel Johnston as much as Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock. Holland uses some nice atmospherics to draw out a rich tapestry on “Black Widow Falls.”

If you roll your eyes and move on every time you hear another solo artist pick up an acoustic guitar, you’ve surely stopped reading before this point. The best thing about hearing these artists is enjoying the little touches that make their music so different from their contemporaries. On Anniversary, Holland couples seven songs of strong songwriting, lo-fi but effective production values, and his own unique little touches to make a fun album that definitely stands on its own.