‘Tuned In’ review: Hollows takes intriguing flight with ‘Vulture’

'Vulture' by Hollows

"Vulture" by Hollows

Perhaps the closest approximation to a direct predecessor to the Chicago band Hollows would be early-era Throwing Muses when Tanya Donelly was in the group. And only on some of the songs on which Donelly sang lead.

If that’s too vague and obscure, Hollows has done its job of creating an “unparalleled” sound.

The woman-dominated quintet (featuring a lone male drummer, Jason Davlantes) also brings to mind The Shangri-Las and The Ronettes as well as The Go-Go’s (when Jane Wiedlin was at lead vocals) and The Bangles (when Susanna Hoffs was at lead vocals). And every melody-oriented lo-fi D.I.Y. pop band of the day.

The group’s new “Vulture” is girl-group melancholy in a muted punk garage with forays into surf rock and campy synth pop.

The women — Maria Jenkins, Emma Hospelhorn, Megan Kasten and Hannah Harris — tease with gorgeous harmonies that are scuffed and muffled by deliberately raw production. Wobbly vocal and wobbly organ meander around each other in a drunken dance on opener “V Is for Vulture.” Dovetailing wails float off from the propulsive primal rhythms of “Shapeshifter” and “Field Fire on Jordan Street.”

The deceptively simple arrangements and sweet voices are betrayed from time to time with surprise nuances like the subversive riff in “Big Decisions (Country Song)” and sometimes-biting lyrics like, “Baby, I just don’t want you around” from “Up & Down.”

Listeners won’t help but wonder: What if these seemingly demure gals were given more polish? Would their apparent talents be negated in the glare of precise production?

There’s no question they devote too much time to inconsequential instrumentation, and there’s clear question as to the actual vocal prowess of the individual band members (the sum off all their harmonies seem greater than the parts).

Frustrations aside, however, Hollows is achieving the right balance to charm and mystify with “Vulture.”

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)

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