In his debut album Holly, 18 year-old Canadian Justin Nozuka has created eleven impressive pieces of thoughtful acoustic-soul. Filled with understated melodies, minimal production and an interesting, sometimes dark take on song-craft, it comes as something of a surprise from one so young.
Justin likes to tell his stories from an unusual angle, evident in the very first track ''Down In A Cold Dirty Well'' where he takes the perspective of a man whose thoughts run back over his life while he is trapped...yes, at the bottom of a well. ''Save Him'' is another great example of Justin's curious viewpoint; in one of the highlights of the album, he heart-rendingly sings of overhearing the development of an abusive relationship in the flat next door.
Of course in this genre it just wouldn't be cricket if we didn't have a few obvious love songs, and in this case they are provided by the colourful and optimistic beauty ''Golden Train'' and the repetitive but spellbinding single-to-be ''After Tonight''.
Justin's voice suits his compositions perfectly, he has a rich, throaty mid-range, great for the bluesy elements, but he also has the ability and confidence even have a crack at some Timberlake-style highs, although he can sometimes go a little far and ends up sounding contrived and slightly parodic. That said this is still a superb album, filled with raw quality. Just enjoy. --Jamie Fisher
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