Patrick Holland Finds a New Voice Under an Old Name on 'You're the Boss'
Published Jul 27, 2022Previously known as Project Pablo — purveyor of reliably solid, jazz-inflected ambient house tracks — Patrick Holland began releasing music under his given name a few years ago, after the appropriative nature of his previous moniker was brought to his attention. It's worth noting, as the Montreal-based artist (originally from Vancouver, which lent his early music a sunny, alpine vibe) has now reinvented himself further. Emerging from behind the knobs as a pop-forward singer-songwriter, Holland now specializes in danceable, vocally led R&B-tinged grooves. How potently his strengths translate will perhaps be a matter of opinion, but it's definitely an adroitly made lateral move, and Holland's producer's touch has never been stronger.
In pop crossover cases like these, it's always interesting to trace which elements of an artist's previous (usually more genre-specific) style make it through the wide-appeal wringer. With Holland, we get the warm and slightly grainy pads, the restrained but funky synth noodling, and the detailed, thoughtful drum programming, now concerned with tight pop songcraft as opposed to longer-form dance tracks. While he turns out to be a fine-enough singer and songwriter, it's these elements that elevate You're the Boss, Holland's debut album under his own name and new style, above being just another well-produced bedroom pop album — although there are times when it sounds like that too.
Things start out pleasantly enough with a trio of likable tracks, introducing what becomes the album's signature guitar tone (dry with chorus — not dissimilar to fellow Canadian act TOPS, whose members appear here), and Holland's amiable, easygoing vocal delivery. But it isn't until "Puzzled Thought" that you'll truly start to nod in approval, when the pads and softly percolating synths arrive to buoy the chorus. A golden-tongued saxophone solo follows shortly after in "The Shame of It All" — or at least what sounds like a sax solo; the fact that you can't quite tell whether it's actually an especially expressive synth adds some extra carats.
It's these production moments that end up shining brightest here, and Holland has plenty. The impossibly delicate breakdown in "For You I Do" is one (Holland's vocals are great here too; tender and intimate), as is the chiptuned solo in "Weight Falls" that takes the track into long-lost Mega Man OST territory. However, Holland's talent for easy listening is one you wish he'd ease off from time to time — single "Losing Touch" slaps immediately, and it's hard not to wish for more of its energy to balance out the sense of chilled-out contentment. As far as references go, the artists Holland has remixed or produced lately are a solid guide — fans of Cut Copy, Homeshake, Jacques Greene and the aforementioned TOPS will definitely feel comfortable here, and it all sounds so friendly and inviting that you likely won't care about the lack of momentum.
The shift from silent DJ-producer to singer-songwriter is one that not everyone can pull off, but You're the Boss fairs well with similar efforts. There was a sense that Holland's previous style needed a refresh anyway, and You're the Boss is a smart and capably achieved move that feels organic, with elements of the old enriching the new when he allows them to. (Sinderlyn / Next Door)