Common Holly Loosens the Tourniquet on ‘If After All': Review
Common Holly, a.k.a. Brigitte Naggar, is weary of old flames and the burns they leave behind.
The Montreal-bred, New York-based singer-songwriter comes undone in her electro-acoustic breakout, “If After All”—an ode to the ending of an affair and the beginning of self-discovery. A laudable testimony of composure in the face of being unready, the track signals the release of the singer’s forthcoming album, Playing House, due September 4.
“I think the producer [Devon Bate] and I chose to lead with ‘If After All’ to put our best foot forward, to draw the listener into the experience that the whole album presents, the experience of personal confession,” Naggar remarks on the decision to lead with the song. “‘If After All’ is a foreshadowing, the radical composite of all the eclectic electro-acoustic elements that appear throughout the rest of the record, in a dense electric package.”
Still learning to shake those bad habits ("If after all of it I haven’t learned yet / I’ll learn it 'til I forget"), Common Holly sounds as courageous as ever over the tri-layered composition, which begins on Feist-y pitter-patters and cymbals before showcasing silky vocals poised above soft strums that eventually crescendo, sweeping an entire indie-rock spectrum.
“I generally tend to make my way across several compositional styles from the beginning to the end of a song. I think that when it came to producing and arranging Playing House, Devon and I had picked up on this eclectic tendency and decided that we could best accentuate that by echoing the compositional changes in our production choices,” she explains. “In the past, as a songwriter, I have been described as ‘an actress trying on different costumes, never really settling on one character to play,’ and I think this has remained with me as a defining characteristic for Common Holly.”
While “If After All” is just one of many ripostes to this sense of a fizzled-out affair, like all good stories, it never ends just there. History, like old habits, is bound to repeat itself; but that is a reality Common Holly doesn't run away from on her record.
"I think that there would have been no hope for me to process the end of that relationship and the four years enclosed within it without the creation of Playing House. I needed to write those songs, they all came out of me so quickly,” Naggar says.
“In perhaps a rather selfish way, I do think that it provided me with some closure. I was so wrapped up in the nine-month process of making the album that I had almost forgotten what it was about until the moment I heard the final master of track six, ‘The Rose.’ That was a brutal moment for me. And yet, the time had passed, and I felt then for the first time that I had done what I needed to do, and that I could finally move on.”
Kindled by both love and lorn, "If After All" isn’t just a breakup song. It’s a manifesto for self-acceptance.
See Common Holly's tour stops, below:
August 5th — Cada Del Popolo, Montreal, QC
August 17th — Shigawake Festival, Shigawake QC
August 22nd — TBD, Quebec City, QC
August 23rd — Record Centre, Ottawa, ON
August 24th — The Garnet, Peterborough, ON
August 25th — Toronto, ON
"If After All" is available to stream now.
The Best Songs of 2017 (So Far!):