Album review: “Year of the Black Dog,” The Holy Knives

by Jon E. Lynch

As the calendar year winds down, music fans, myself included, are being met with the last push of new record releases before the full-on winter months, in a final bid to make those “best of” lists. There are fewer album releases right now, but, as is generally the case, I’d suggest valuing quality over quantity anyway. And, last Friday, (November 9) was chock full of quality.

Dinosaur Jr. frontman and modern guitar virtuoso J. Mascis released his seventh(?) solo effort, “Elastic Days,” on the Sub Pop record label.

Laura Jane Grace, likely best known for her work fronting politico punkers Against Me!, made a major shift, perhaps sonically, by debuting a record for Chicago alt-country and Americana greats Bloodshot Records, with the help of backing band The Devouring Mothers.

Speaking of alt-country and Americana, Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s released another solo record, this time for ATO Records, with positive early press ahead of a couple advanced singles.

And, the preeminent funk and soul Daptone record label released a gut-wrenching posthumous album from soul crooner Charles Bradley.

These are by no means the only albums released last week, but a mere few to check out.

The record that has earned repeated listens from me is the self-released debut full-length from the The Holy Knives. Brothers Kyle (lead guitar and keys) and Kody (vocals and guitar) Valentine are joined by Julio Mena (drums) and Mauricio Vazquez (bass) on a 10-track album that followed their EP from the summer. Appropriately described by the members as “a band that infuses the sultry sounds of rock ‘n’ roll with a tinge of desert psychedelia,” “Year of the Black Dog” picks up perfectly where the aforementioned EP left off this summer. Latin Grammy-nominated producer Manuel Calderon recorded the album, adding textures and experimentation with various keys, organs, slide guitars, synth bass, and programming, making for a surrealistic, Western desert-inspired atmosphere and tone. The band sonically blends the roots of the Valentine’s hometown of New Orleans with their current locale, San Antonio, into a pastiche of addictive and effective indie noir.

“Year of the Black Dog” is available now as a CD and digital download, available from the band directly at, or from their Bandcamp page at

Recommended for fans of Timber Timbre, The Black Heart Proseccion, Spindrift, Morphine, and even moments of The Handsome Family.

Jon E. Lynch[email protected]


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