Track Review: The Holy Gasp- A Daily Affirmation



The Holy Gasp

A Daily Affirmation.




A Daily Affirmation is available at:

4th February, 2015

Afro-Cuban; Psychedelic; Surf-Punk




The album The Last Generation of Love is available from February 24th.  A limited edition cassette (of the album) is available at:


IT has been a while since I have put (electronic) pen to paper: to review a band/act…

One of the reasons (I stepped away from reviewing) was the burn-out rate: taking on too much; too soon.  At the moment, I am reviewing an act every 2 weeks- that may change in time.  My reviews will be shorter and more ‘to-the-point’: reining it in slightly and… well, I’m waffling now.  It is Valentine’s Day (as meaningful to me as Christmas is to Jewish people); I have decided to bury my head into more important things: namely, discovering some kick-ass new music.  Before I get down (and introduce my featured band), it is worth noting an interesting point: I am back in Canada.  Over last year, I found that Canadian acts made up (a large percentage of reviews): each time I assessed a Canadian act, I was left stunned and surprised.  Britain is producing some varied flavours; some bold colours; some loveable tykes: the music we are putting out is pretty strong.  What I am finding is that the likes of Canada (and the U.S. too) are doing something rather different: they are putting out music of a highest caliber.  Whether it is the local acts (inspiring their neighbours into action); something in the air- or the music scene over there- they are inching ahead of us- in terms of quality and quantity (of great music).   Many of us here tend to ignore international music: we focus too heavily on home-grown artists.  The media are just as culpable: they naturally proffer acts close to home.  If you ignore international acts; you miss out on some rather special sounds.  Today’s act is an example (of such an act); a formation that is sure to seduce: one day they will be making their way across to the U.K.  Let me introduce them.

Benjamin Hacker’s Toronto-based crew has been enlivening and inspiring Canadian artists: among the Toronto music scene, they are one of the most exciting and promising acts of 2015.  In terms of their influences (and who inspires them), they list the following:

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Tom Waits, Primus, the Cramps, Dead Kennedys, Pete Seeger, the Birthday Party, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, the theme song from Ren and Stimpy, Primo Levi, Cat Stevens, Groucho and Harpo Marx, but not Chico, the B-52s…”

If you are a fan of (any of the aforementioned acts) then you will love The Holy Gasp.  That is not to say the band is the sum part of their influences- far from it in fact.  The boys have taken sprinkles and twinkles of Nick Cave’; a scoop of Dead Kennedys; a smattering of Birthday Party- to be honest, they are the faintest shades.  It is hard really to describe their ‘sound’- it is such a unique and refreshing blast of sonic goodness.  I urge you- to listen to the song immediately- and get a sense of what they are about.  The band is not that most predictable of thing: an Indie band that have little originality and focus.  Too many times- unfortunately it is a big problem in this country- I hear of a ‘great’ new act come through, and my shoulders sag: they are as formulaic and processed as you could imagine.  If I hear another band (that is a copy-cat) of Artic Monkeys or Oasis, then I may well give up on life.  The most imaginative and original acts are the ones that gain the biggest attention- and will claim the greatest rewards.  It is hardly surprising that The Holy Gasp have won some impressive plaudits: Toronto is a city that has produced a huge raft (over the last year) of stunning musicians.  It would do well for their British counterparts to take note- investigate what is happening over there (and be inspired by it).  Before I conclude my point, it may be worth introducing you to the boys themselves:

Benjamin Hackman (vocals, percussion)

Daveyoso (drums, percussion)

Sebastian Shinwell (electric guitar, vocals)

Christopher Weatherstone (alto saxophone, flute, vocals)

 James McEleney (upright bass, vocals)

Toronto poet and composer, Benjamin Hackman, formed The Holy Gasp in 2011. He tries to make it all sound like a bunch of hopped-up Latin jazz junkies singing Surfin’ Bird with a bad case of the shits. Call it Afro-Cuban psychedelic surf punk. Call it a groove, daddy!”

From their charming biography; to the intriguing influences: it is hard to ignore the potential on display.  It is a shame I neglected the high seas of music reviewing (for so long)- yet it was a necessary chance to recharge my batteries.  Now that I am (un-) semiretired, I am glad that my virgin review (for my second wind) is an exhilarating and soul-touching slice of gold.  I shall get into reviewing A Daily Affirmation (shortly), but for now, let me give you some further information…

The Holy Gasp will unleash their (The Last Generation of Love) in a matter of days: it will be chance for the world to discover a fully-fledged example (of what the band is about).  When assessing/distilling the album, the band explained:

The album was recorded sporadically between March and November of 2014 by Josh Korody (The Dirty Nil, Dilly Dally, Beliefs) at Candle Recording in Toronto. The album re-contextualizes beatnik aesthetics for the modern listener, and makes a desperate cry for humanity, for change–for people to not only care, but to see that to give a shit is profound.” 

The genre cross-pollination and “giving a shit” has clearly worked wonders: there is a definite buzz (about their forthcoming album).  When looking at the here and now, it is worth taking a step back: to see how the band has progressed.  Last year the boys unveiled Bedbugs– a duo of songs that showcased just what they are all about.  The title track (from the E.P.) is a woozy and stomping hoe-down; a break-neck swing of festivity and dark majesty: a howling execration of the damned.  Tom Waits’ distinct bark and rasp comes in; that same yowl-cum-howl swagger is all there.  Being a fan of Mr. Waits- especially his album Bad as Me– you can hear that influence come in: shades and elements of that album come to the fore.  The track stutters and cries to the heaven- an unholy drunken call.  In the middle of the demented fever comes kick and dance: there is cool rhythm and sexy percussive beats.  Stomp Out The Man: nervy and cosmic beginning; twinkling and curious- a beautiful and brotherly counterpart (to the title slice).  The vocal is determined and strong; swaying and addictive.  The lyrics (of the song) are intriguing, witty and quotable- quite Byzantine and oblique in places.  The album (The Last Generation of Love) is about to drop: a matter of months ago, the band unveiled the album’s title cut.  The song has Antony and the Johnsons shades: Hegarty’s gorgeous croon can be heard here.  Fascinating vocals marry with rumbled congas; horns parp with cowbells (and majestic Folk elements).  Tying together themes of Rock, World Music and Psychedelia, the band crafted a nugget of wonder: a track that is impossible to forget.  The band (on their latest offering) has not compromised their ethics and true sound: so unique, it would be foolhardy and unwise.  Having cracked a rich vein of sound (so early in their career) they have merely adapted their themes- grown in confidence and grown in stature.  You can hear the confidence and authority (in their latest song) – it is a sure-fire indication that the album will be quite a treat.  With that all said, it is appropriate (I give my thoughts) on the ‘birthday boy’ itself…

Having familiarised myself with (the band’s) back catalogue, I sort of knew what A Daily Affirmation would offer.  The song itself is loosely based on/inspired by Jessica’s “Daily Affirmation” (see YouTube to understand the irony in that statement: the crap people will watch!).  Readying myself for a visceral smack in the teeth, I steadied myself for what was to come: and sure as hell there was no messing about!  The track has a slight slow-build: some atmosphere, intrigue and quiet are laced in.  If you watch the accompanying YouTube video- there is a link at the top of this review- it goes a long way (to visually representing) the song’s themes and objectives: it starts with a sleepy head; it explodes into the morning- and has an epic day.  When Hackman’s vocals come into the mix (elongating and bellowing the words “right now!”), he is determined and focused mood.  His life (our hero’s) is on the up: he can do anything; there is a definite soulfulness to the opening stages.  Being backed by a chorus of affirmative voices, our hero is leading a charge: instilled with confidence and defiance, nothing is going to get him down.  Reminding me (of a cross between) George Ezra and Tom Waits, The Holy Gasp clan are in buoyant mood: the song rises your spirits; eradicates the malaise of the day.  Our man loves his family (including his cat: well, you would, wouldn’t you?): he is a man filled with promise; a lease of optimism (the video is particularly smile-inducing).  In the initial stages, the instrumentation is kept fairly minimalist: there are percussive touches; some rumbling in the background- the main emphasis is on the vocal itself.  Not only does Hackman inject some incredibly evocative and memorable vocals- his bandmates do likewise.  Allowing the words and sentiments to proffer unabated, the listener is entranced by the song’s motifs: the unabashed and non-cynical messages being expounded.  Throwing out a f***- you to the world; the protagonist cannot be shackled or held back: he is in fine form, and damned be anyone who tries to hold him back!  Infusing elements of Soul and Gospel (into the vocals and the lyrics) there is a fantastic choral affect created: you are almost compelled to get up and stomp around; wave your arms in a hallelujah chorus- or just smile inanely at the insistency of the track.  With some Tom Waits vocal mannerisms; a little bit of Elvis Presley croon (and vocalisations), you are hooked into the song: this affirmation being played out is undeniably spellbinding.  With so little in the way of jaded irony, (the song) is that rarest of beasts: a track that is optimistic and inspiring.  Right now things are good (for our hero and his band of cohorts); there are no obstacles on the rails.  Gathering up friends and associates, the boys care not for negative grumblings- they may have had bad days but this good day will be celebrated to the full.  Intoxicated and seduced by the video’s simple charms- honestly, check it out- you get enveloped in the rush and urgency: the passion of the performances are second-to-none.  After the imagination-capturing flair and beauty of the vocals- and the incredibly nuanced support from the band, the song transmogrifies: a fire-dancing sonic dalliance erupts.  Ensconced in a blizzard of horns, percussion and guitars, the lads unleash a raga of Jazz-tinged joy: a celebration of the sense, as it was.  Rumba and Latin dance tangos with quick-step promise and hold-me-tight passion; brass blasts implore you to move your arms- get up and get lost in the moment.  Quite a contradistinction from the low-down croon and soulful extroversion- this passage is a rainbow-coloured explosion of sunshine and grace.  The boys have a ball for sure (in the video) and this is passed onto the listener: such is the impact and wallop you get; it is impossible not to be overcome in the riptide.  Desperate for the track to continue for many more minutes, the song starts to fade out- you are left with one hell of a smile on your face.  A Daily Affirmation is a short and sensational burst of wonder; a song that has no hidden agenda: something that is designed to uplift and motivate the listener.  The entire performance is tight and incredible: the band is as close-knit and intuitive (as I have ever witnessed).   Each of the band is at the top of their game; each brings a hell of a lot to the table- there are no weak links or kinks here.  When you mix a dose of liquid joy; a healthy drizzle of dynamic Gospel; a liberal swathe of affirmative belief: you get a hell of a bang.  Not only does (the track) get inside your brain- and demanded repeated listens- it acts as a mouth-watering lead-off (from their forthcoming album).  If this is the sort of thing (the L.P.) is going to proffer: why the hell would everyone not garb it up?  I was transfixed by the soulful and seductive (weird synonym but true) vocals; the jubilant cries and exorcisms; the sheer recklessness of passion and panache- the Canadian lads are determined to bring sunshine and guidance the most pessimistic of bones.  There are few songs- and acts in fact- that are so immediate and vote-winning: the song is that which cannot help but be adored (like a soppy-eyed kitten begging for food).  Do yourself a favour- on this Valentine’s Day- and give your love to one hell of a song.

Their social media ranks are slowly growing: the arrival of their album will surely see them swell.  Across March, the lads will be taking their music on the road: touring around Montreal, Toronto (and near-by locales).  There are so few ‘truly original’ acts out there: bands and artists that betray a debt to nobody.  In this country, we struggle to produce these kinds of musicians: across Canada, there is no such problem.  The Holy Gasp are an act that have a big future ahead; ammunition and ample promise- their sound is sure to get inside of your head.  Mixing snarling vocals with insatiable compositions, I cannot wait to digest their album: I hope that it gets the attention it deserves.  I say this about (most international acts): I hope they get their butts over to London.  It would be good to see them play live; experience the wonder close-up.  The likes of George Ezra have put the vintage back in fashion: he has a low bellow and a treasure chest of classic sounds.  There are too many over-produced, polished and samey acts about: we need more bands like The Holy Gasp.  I shall conclude my review with a quote (from the band themselves): one that perfectly sums them up:

A teacher once told me long ago that “there are two types of people in this world: ‘those who make messes and those who clean them up.‘”

The Holy Gasp is cleaning up the mess (the bland and predictable swathes of music shards) but need your help…

IT will be worth the investment.


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