CD review: 'Holly' a sophomore smash

I've started to notice a trend in the music I've been listening to lately, and it all revolves around 1960s soul, jazz and rhythm and blues.

There's Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, early Mayer Hawthorne and to some extent Gary Clark Jr. Nick Waterhouse is the latest to join this group after I caught wind of him while listening to KCRW one morning.


As I listened to Waterhouse's latest album, "Holly," I didn't know that he was only 28 and born and raised in Huntington Beach.

The 10 tracks on the 30-minute LP are among those rare examples that prove, quite definitively, that Surf City is capable of producing more than surf and punk music. Though his music doesn't fall into either of those categories, he takes characteristics from the genres and incorporates them into his work.


Waterhouse may be in his late 20s, but the man has an old soul, a soul that makes you want to dance, and the track "It No. 3" is a perfect example of that. The verses of the song mainly comprise Waterhouse's voice and a simple drum beat. However, once you get into the instrumental choruses, your ears are treated to a harmonious culmination of a saxophone, a repetitious and spellbinding keyboard note and surfy guitar riffs.

"This Is A Game" is a punchier, faster track with the same elements as "It No. 3," but this time around, Waterhouse trades off solos with his sax player and keyboardist. If you don't feel like dancing or doing the twist, then I don't know what else to say.

Other songs, such as "Dead Room" and "Ain't There Something That Money Can't Buy," prove that Waterhouse can compose catchy tunes, but he also shows that he can slow things down to a more relaxing, almost noir-like pace.

"Let It Come Down" and "Hands on the Clock" transport you to a dimly lit jazz bar where everyone is smoking a cigarette and sipping on an Old Fashioned. Waterhouse's vocals on these songs — well, frankly, all his songs — are warm, comforting and smooth.


I met up with Waterhouse earlier this month on a night he played at the Hollywood American Legion Hall and watched him and his band in the empty venue as they sound-checked before the show. Listening to them play live was just as good, or possibly better, than listening to the album.

We talked about how "Holly" was more of a cohesive and thought-out album than his debut LP, "Time's All Gone," which he said was more like a compilation of 45 rpm records.

The inspiration for his music, Waterhouse said, came from his family, especially his father, who moved to Huntington Beach in the 1960s and talked to him about venues like the Golden Bear and the Rendezvous Ballroom.

"They knew that place in a time before it was what we know now culturally," he said.

Waterhouse explained that the surf and punk culture was never his scene, but the music could have influenced his sound nonetheless.

"Maybe I got it from them," he said. "Maybe it was all so bad that it just made me want to go the other way."