Julia Holter
Loud City Song



by Otto Rasanen USER (6 Reviews)
August 25th, 2013 | 8 replies

Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Holter creates a fantasy world full of detail and wonder - if only it was just as immersive.

The best fantasy literature has always been distinguished not by riveting plots or complex characters, but by the beautiful, exhilarating worlds it explores. That’s why Lord of the Rings made for successful movies: viewers were entranced by the majestic world of Middle-Earth more than by the task of chucking a piece of jewelry in a volcano. As musical fantasy, the same observation can be made of Julia Holter’s Loud City Song, an album of dreamy and expansive chamber pop – that is, if the chamber in question is a book-ridden bedroom.

The album opener is, aptly enough, "World" and serves to transport the listener to Holter’s imagination. The measured pace of the album is introduced by Holter’s small pauses at the end of singing each line and instruments which fade into silence only to re-emerge from it. While the world of Loud City Song is that of the city, it is more 19th century Paris than 21st century New York.

The greatest virtue of Loud City Song is how clearly realized its musical world is. The album is rich with ambient-building touches such as the cymbal clatter opening "Maxim’s I". The general sound of the album combines dream-pop synths and organs with orchestral backing of horns and strings. The orchestral instrumentation, far from one dimensional, is able to reimagine its sound between songs. For example the blaring, threatening brass of "Horns Surrounding Me" and jarring violins of "Maxim’s II" become a lovely saxophone solo and plucked strings on "This Is a True Heart". Holter’s vocals are just as dextrous, ranging from childish glee to a sinister whisper. Without limiting her palette in a bid for focus as others might, she is able to effortlessly achieve cohesion.

Recurrence seems to be the central theme, and not just in the instrumentation. "Hello Stranger" is about meeting again an old acquaintance, while the song pair "Maxim’s I & II" repeat the same verses with constant variation culminating in an implosion of deranged saxophone and violin. Elsewhere lyrical symbols – trees, hats, and more – reappear throughout the album. This sums up not to repetitiveness, but familiarity.

Yet for all of its detail and subtle variation Holter’s world is regrettably insular, like a guided tour which leaves one with a nagging feeling that despite becoming thoroughly familiar with the landmarks, the true beating heart of the city has escaped them. The one exception is the vibrant penultimate track "This Is a True Heart". Instead the closer "City Appearing" seems to crystallise this fault. Beginning slowly reminiscent of "World", the track builds up to an unfortunately lacklustre climax of ghostly strings. That the end fails to signify more serves as a reminder that throughout the journey the listener is still an outsider in this world. That this is as much of a fault as it is testifies to how much Loud City Song has made you wish you could be a part of it. Instead, you turn on the album again and start your journey into Holter’s fantasy world all over. While you’re still a stranger the world welcomes you, so glad you’re there again.

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"Loud City Song" is another impressive achievement in Julia Holter's quickly burgeoning catalogue....

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Comments:Add a Comment 
August 25th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

The ambiance of this thing to me is like Mercury Rev's "Holes" stretched into an album. Listening alternately to this and the new Franz Ferdinand album for the past week has made for quite a contrast.

I'd like some criticism on the review this time, as last time all the feedback I got was pretty much "pos'd". That doesn't really help improvement.

Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5


Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

this is a good review, not much to change here. i guess there are some preferences i'd have, like the end paragraph where you start a sentence with "the one exception" and the next one with "instead"; i think there are less clunky ways to make that sort of double-contrast--maybe start the next sentence with "Unfortunately,"? but once again that's not an error just a preference. nibble

August 25th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks. I kept thinking with more listens this album was going to grow into something even greater

than it was but alas, it never did.

Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2013


Album Rating: 3.0

I agree. It was a good read.

August 25th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

cool review, good talk of the instruments and the sound and all those great things. on a personal level which in no way is meant to make ur review sound bad because it isn't, i very much disagree about this album being insular. or maybe i disagree with it being a problem -- the point of the album to an extent seems to be the idea of only being able to experience one life in a city with millions of them. it's completely stuck in holter's head because of that. maybe that's why the whole thing sort of feels like a jazzy movie with just this one character who gets any speaking lines

August 25th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for your thoughts! Of course, a lot of good music has been made out of that feeling. What I

tried to say in this review is that the music doesn't quite immerse you in its feelings. It's not a

matter of feeling the insulation from the world Holter is, but feeling insulated from the album and

her. In a sense I'm being left out of feeling being left out (if that makes sense). That, to me, is

what's keeping this from being even better.

August 25th 2013


I just put this on my wishlist yesterday. Maybe I'll have some feeling to listen to it tonight if I'm feeling up for it.

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