An outlier in the Curation Records lineup, Leeds’ Elkyn (aka Joey Donnelly) joins Sean Thompson outside the band’s West Coast circle, and as the first international artist signed to the label. Tonally, the record diverges from the label’s sun-faded pop, though his is a bit of a kindred spirit to the layered songwriting of Trevor Beld Jimenez. While the expectations of a first UK offshoot of the label bring to mind someone like Bobby Lee or The Hanging Stars, the feeling here is more of an intimate indoor vibe — a cloistered songwriter coming to terms with time, trust, and tenderness. Donnelly’s songs are tentative, fragile and they don’t pretend to be anything otherwise.
There are feelings of loss on Holy Spirit Social Club, and with titles like “If You’re Still Leaving,” “I Was Never In It,” and “This is the End,” one has to head in with some sense that a specter of healing is at the core of the record. While the shadows of Elliott Smith, solo Neil Halstead, and Rehearsals-era Damian Jurado loom large, Donelly’s never quite as open as his influences, leaving a bit of a mesh veil between himself and the listener. It’s a bit of a static flicker, a UV glare from the screen, a distance that can’t quite be breached but that speaks as much to his loneliness as the chords and choruses. Donelly’s still feeling out his place in the wounded pop pantheon, but Holy Spirit Social Club is a nice first volley into the arena.