Palmas’ new single “Holy Ground” carries itself with incontestable promise, shimmering with an affectation that feels palpably sincere.
Stream: “Holy Ground” – Palmas
“The new record, and specifically ‘Holy Ground,’ has definite moments where you could draw easy comparisons to our older material,” Kurt Cain-Walther, the vocalist/keyboardist for indie outfit Palmas, notes of their newest release. “But, we have definitely added new elements of sound and rhythm that might take people by surprise.”
“Holy Ground,” the latest single released today, August 20, from the Philly-and-New York-based trio (comprised of Cain-Walther, guitarist Matthew Young, and drummer Andrew Torre), perfectly summates Palmas at their core: dreamy nostalgia dripping with yellowy sonic resonance. “Holy Ground” fulfills the desire to expand beyond one’s horizons and seek out that which we do not yet know. And while this song beholds an innate desire for exploration and delving into newness, Palmas still manage to make it feel all too familiar.
The song opens with Cain-Walther crooning:
Took a chance, I can’t tell why
In the middle of an endless sky
We can leave again when the sun gets high
We can leave all the flowers in the valley
This opening ostensibly pays homage to the some of Palmas’ earlier releases, their 2016 song “Flowers” and their 2015 EP To The Valley, seemingly signaling a departure from those works and ushering in a new era for the band. “Holy Ground” welcomes the novelty of the unknown, diving headfirst into an exciting adventure whilst honoring the past. Young notes, however, that it isn’t necessarily an intentional process for the group.
“I like to think of our music in layers instead of linearly,” Cain-Walther remarks. “So while I can see people comparing this track to older material and trying to make sense of it as an ‘evolution’ or a change, I just see it as adding another layer to Palmas.”
“Holy Ground” stays true to that which listeners have come to love and appreciate from the trio, inflecting raw emotion into its illusory cadences, wistfully embarking on a narrative journey that makes one yearn for, just, something. These reflective tendencies allow the narrative to truly shine, putting the lyrics at the fore.
But then I saw you on the mountain side
and you know, I think about it always
In the places where you can’t decide
Never knew I’d want it so badly
“That’s always been a huge goal for us – to create music that really puts you in a place or a time or even a feeling,” Cain-Walther notes. “With ‘Holy Ground,’ that started by sitting down and telling an honest, genuine story. Where are these people? What are they doing? Where are they going? What are they seeing and feeling? I have always felt that the strongest music hits you in all of your senses. I want to be able to smell the flowers in the field or feel the heat of the sun on my face. Don’t just tell me, but show me. It would make me extremely happy to know if even a few people felt that way from our music.”
The song fulfills its illustrative component, allowing for the lyrics’ sensory storytelling to shine with each speculation and contemplation. As the track moves into its chorus, the song’s pensiveness swells, pondering:
Are you leaving something?
Are you starting somewhere new?
Is it all for nothing?
Is it all for you?
“Holy Ground” denotes a gravitas similar to the feeling of reconnecting with an old friend or lover, or sitting in one’s favorite coffee shop on a rainy day, or soaking up the sunshine on a long drive down the coastline. Palmas have uniquely inserted themselves as harbingers of remembrance, utilizing their unique musicality to induce tangible sentimentality. “Holy Ground” is no exception here, as Palmas delineate the longing desire for whatever else is out there in the world to discover.
I would try to find you but I can’t tell how
You’ve been hiding in a younger crowd
We can live forever when the sun goes down
We can live forever if we make it to the valley
Palmas’ distinctive sound helps categorize them into a league of their own, and one that has often assigned them to a sound that they didn’t necessarily intend to create. Blending together varying influences spanning multiple genres and decades, Palmas have curated a sonic universe for themselves that couples together influences the likes of Boyz II Men and Aaliyah and 1960s anti-war psychedelia.
“It was never intentional to have a ‘west coast sound,‘ but I think it has always been a description that we have embraced.” Cain-Walther explains. “The Flower Power Movement of the sixties produced a ton of incredible music and artists that continue to inspire us and our writing. […]That ideology and sound is something that is still relevant today and is something we relate to very strongly. On the other hand, […] I think some of that East Coast 90s R&B tends to find its way melodically…But we understand why people see a juxtaposition between our music and where we make it.”
“We just happen to get a lot of inspiration from the west coast,” Young concurs. “[It] could be the nature, or just the idea of starting over again. California, since the Gold Rush, has always been a place where you can start fresh or begin again. […] We definitely try to match that inspiration to our sounds and visuals. Most of the time it comes seamlessly, without even recognizing it in the moment the song is being written.”
“Holy Ground” upholds these ideals, providing a narrative that is uniquely personal whilst maintaining relative ubiquity. The song, according to Young, was inspired by a trip to California with a recent ex in hopes of rekindling the relationship. And while that ultimately didn’t work out, “the beauty of the nature in contrast with the relationship was pretty profound.”
“Holy Ground” finds hope in the hopeless, light in the dark; the song mimics the beauty of the nature in which it surrounds itself. Palmas have idealized the world around them, offering glimmers of sanguineness amidst an undeniably pensive narrative.
Are you tired of running?
Cause I’m tired of running too
Is it all or nothing?
Is it all for you?
As the song closes, it repeats its earlier stanzas, driving home the nostalgic feelings that become more tangible with each recitation. “Holy Ground” carries itself with incontestable promise, shimmering with an affectation that feels palpably sincere. This holds true to Palmas’ ethos, as the band continues to grow and expand and seek out new experiences.
“Hopefully, this new record helps showcase our range of sound and influence,” Cain-Walther notes. “[…] I don’t think anyone these days likes to be labeled as any one thing, so, it’s been nice to use our music as a platform to showcase a more diverse landscape of sound that’s truly unique to us.”
Stream “Holy Ground,” available now.
Stream: “Holy Ground” – Palmas
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📸 © Simon Wernovsky