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Julia Holter - In the City
on 19 August 2013
California singer songwriter Julia Holter is three albums in and improving on each outing. "Loud City Song" is the album where she paints a much more accessible musical canvass. This does not diminish the fact that this is a complex and often celestial work which demonstrates a sharp musical mind at work. Those who own her previous albums respectively "Tragedy" and "Eckstasis" will generally approve of this new one since it rekindles some of the best moments contained in those records and develops them further. In doing so she has not lost her cutting edge and songs like the fragmentary avant garde jazz of "Maxim's II" will still leave the listener scratching their head and wondering what chemical aids were its source inspiration. It is a song easier to admire and love but there is plenty here in this album that draws its inspiration from the 1958 film adaptation of French novella `Gigi' to swoon over. Take the hauntingly beautiful "He is running through my eyes" where Holters whispery angelic voice shimmers across a tragic slow piano driven tale and that leaves you desperately wanting more. Its the sort of song that Kate Bush once used to write although its doubtful that she ever quite managed a opener like "World". This song is anchored by multi track vocals and barely seems to move its pace is so mesmerising. As the brass and string backing rise up all you can do is be dragged into its intimate meditation.
Holter is no stranger to covers not least her glorious version of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" which she effectively deconstructed on Mojo's "Rumours Revisited album". Here she tackles "Hello Stranger", a 1963 hit single by R&B singer Barbara Lewis. It is one of the best songs of career thus far. Over a floating soundtrack of a wall of synths her voice echoes out like an enchanted sweet siren dragging you towards the musical rocks, with the tune exercising a vice like grip on your sensibilities. It is wonderful stuff and the album highlight. On another level "This is a true heart" is also unique for Holter easily marking her most commercial pop song to date. This reviewer hated "In the Green Wild" with a passion on first listens with its almost humorous spoken lyric over jazzy bass lines, but at the halfway point it morphs into an entirely different song with Holter's pop sensibility again at the forefront. After repeated plays the song crushes any resistance. The severity of "Horns surrounding me" is again one of Holters more darkly challenging moments although it is not beyond redemption. Finally the closing seven minutes plus of "City Appearing" is almost a summation of the whole album, at times playful and sweet, at others times stately and then a descent into a powerful post rock climax.
In "Loud City Song" Julia Holter has created an album that bewilders, surprises, beguiles and passionately stirs. She is an artist to be spoken of in the same breath as Julianna Barwick and Johanna Newsom. As such she may attract and repel in equal measure. This album however is her most mainstream work thus far and will be drooled over by critics for the artists audacity in mixing everything from cacophonous climaxes to ethereal ghostly soundscapes. If austerity is biting perhaps the un-initiated may wish to try it out before purchase through a internet network. For those already smitten it awaits your rapt attention.