Recently, I was able to catch an amazing show in Hartford, CT headlined by UK band, WSTR. One of the openers was pop-punk band from Springfield, MO, Hold Close. They were a band I’ve been aware of for a while now: one that’s songs held places on my Spotify places, but I couldn’t say I was an avid listener. However, their performance in Hartford absolutely blew me away. Specifically, their song “Breath” off of their newest album “Time” stuck with me. I found myself leaving their show with a CD from their merch table and binging it on the two hour ride home. Breath played on repeat, and in my time listening to it, I decided I needed to write a review on this beautiful yet heart-wrenching song.
Breath is a song by Hold Close (written by Braxton Smiley) for their 2019 album, and also their most listened to song on Spotify. The song reflects Smiley’s own continuing experience grieving a friend that died of a drug overdose. The relaxing guitar melody in the beginning starts slow and sweet, which hints to the listener that this won’t follow a fast tempo. While that is true, its tempo does eventually pick up just before the first chorus. Because of the tempo switch, I find that this song is an audible symbol that grief is not just depression. There are times where Smiley’s intonation is off and shaky, as if he is too emotionally invested in the song to focus on the technicalities of it. Smiley has deep regret and anger, and both reflect in all aspects of this song.
The song leaves listeners with a few questions (as, I feel, all good songs do). His word choice is so distinctive to me. Asking “is death a normal thing to fear” is the objective hit line of this song, and holds a storyline within itself. Is the singer fearing death? Or is he no longer afraid, and feels out of place because of it? He asks the one he is singing about if he will meet him “in the troposphere”. The use of such a specific term (the atmospheric layer closest to earth) adds on to how personal this story is to Smiley; he wants to see this person again, but he can not go far.
There is a sense of pure honesty in both the lyrics and the sweet, yet dynamic, melody. Having these two contrasting aesthetics reflects his nostalgia for his friend that he is writing this entire piece about, as well as the deeply rooted emotions his passing has left him with. Overall, it is a beautifully created piece that works in all aspects to follow this main theme of tragedy and recovery.