Five of Cups opens with the title track, establishing the album's auditory and thematic
modus operandi from the get-go. Holy Wave's lysergic textural palette is immediately
apparent in the song's woozy synth lead and anti-gravity guitar jangle, but the atypical
chord progressions and vocal melody steers the music away from anodyne escapism into
a pensive grappling between self-determination and defeatism. Holy Wave continue to
ride the wistful and phantasmic train on "Bog Song," where the members vacillate
between swells of austere minor chords and layered electric orchestration. From there, the
previously released digital single "Chaparral" plays with the band's own sense of nostalgia, weaving references of their El Paso past into a tapestry of transcendental triumph.
Like so much classic album-oriented rock music, the real magic begins to unfold in the
latter half of Five of Cups. On "The Darkest Timeline," Holy Wave recruits their friends
Lorena Quintanilla and Alberto Gonzalez from the Baja California, Mexico psych duo
Lorelle Meets the Obsolete to add additional ethereal layers to their intoxicating after-midnight grooves. "Nothing in the Dark" functions on a similar principle, using a steady
propulsive drum pattern as the bedrock to tape-warbled synths, arpeggiated guitar
chords, jet streams of fuzz, and serene vocals. Five of Cups' ruminations on combating
defeat and disappointment are directly confronted on album closer "Happier." Once
again straddling the melodic line between melancholy and breezy sophistication, Holy
Wave examines the synthetic construct of happiness in our modern age and how so often
the attainment of comfort lacks any true sense of joy. Yet this isn't some nihilistic dirge.
Rather, it translates as a buoyant reminder that the bandwidth of human experience
inherently requires peaks and valleys, and that euphoria is often found in the search
outside of the familiar.