Julia Holter
Tragedy


4.0
excellent

Review

by Patrick Lyndsey USER (5 Reviews)
September 19th, 2013 | 12 replies | 1,261 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It's all Greek to me

5 of 5 thought this review was well written

You’ve probably all seen the dual theatre masks that typically represent the theatre arts. One face represents comedy, the other tragedy, and they together represent the dichotomy of theatre and the division of genres within. Laugh now, cry later, and hope you enjoy the show. It’s pretty basic imagery, but in discussing Julia Holter’s Tragedy, it’s a good start towards visualizing the soundscape here.

To date, Holter has released three albums; chronologically, it begins with Tragedy, follows up with Ekstasis, and ends with Loud City Song, which was originally to be titled Gigi. All three albums base themselves around the theatre arts, with Loud City Song based on the musical and film Gigi, as well as more primarily Los Angeles as a city, and with Tragedy and Ekstasis following the themes based around Greek mythology. If you’ve followed Holter at all this isn’t exactly far out information; she even packaged the album with a marble-statue-esque exterior.

Tragedy lyrically follows Euripedes’ Hippolytus and instrumentally follows nothing but itself. Among the most fascinating traits of this album is how cohesive and mastered it sounds. Story goes the album was initially spread across several smaller bedroom-recorded EPs, and it never sounds it. Songs coalesce into one another easily, and the themes and atmosphere throughout never drop. More impressively, it never sounds stale. Songs ebb and flow but feel wholly unique and individual from one another, a feat doubly impressive by way of song length. This isn’t entirely a positive, however; songs drone a bit, and if you’re not in the mood for atmosphere and want something accessible there isn’t much to find here. ‘Goddess Eyes’ is fairly approachable, but even then, it’s one of only three songs to be under six minutes, the other two being titled ‘Introduction’ and ‘Interlude’. It’s that sort of album.

Vocally, Holter displays terse-but-appropriately-so lyricism and reverb-laced punches. Her range isn’t particularly on display with Tragedy, but she demonstrates strengths and not weaknesses in this regard, and her voice works better as a sonic element rather than any sort of focal point. The only focal point this album seems to have is the atmosphere, a dream-like haze that her vocals contribute to and never remove from you.

Instrumentally, to describe this album as experimental is generic but apt. Holter is a studied lass and it shows. Ambient atmospheres swirl into a world all its own, noise seems to float about in and out of songs to come back later, and those same vocals inject songs that would drone with a bit more energy. Electroacoustic experimentation is all well and good, but the biggest flaw for the album is likely the fact that Holter’s composition verges on too smart sometimes. It’s an inaccessible album, one that requires the right mindset to appreciate and understand. This is the largest area of subjectivity here. It’s undeniable that skill in composition and songwriting is on display, but whether or not the end result is fun for the listener is entirely up for debate. Her later works merged these experimental ideas with much more pop-approachable song lengths and instrumentation to great success, so those expectations may be poor to have if you're going in just now.

Tragedy is an album that exists in an interesting space. For a debut album, it’s stunning and fascinating, and two albums down the line, it certainly still holds up. There’s a bit of longing to be had here; ambience and atmosphere are undeniable positives, but when the album extends towards the too esoteric you end up losing customers. That really just equates to ‘some people won’t like this’, and considering how expansive music and musical tastes can be, that’s a minute complaint. It’s an album intended for listening on the whole, and this shows with its heart on its sleeve, but if you have the time and patience to make the investment for it, Tragedy becomes anything but. It's a vibrant album made from distant sounds, a dichotomy much like the theatre masks.


user ratings (33)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Synthpop
September 19th 2013



56 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it didn't have a review and i love julia holter's hair and music so here we are

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
September 19th 2013



9999 Comments


I've heard so much about Julia Holter. You may have just convinced me to give this a spin.

Digging: Deniro Farrar - Rebirth

Synthpop
September 19th 2013



56 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i really like her stuff. ekstasis and loud city song are better than this in my opinion because they're essentially pop albums
but function as so much more, but tragedy is where it began and it's a fascinating album nonetheless.

thanks a lot for the feedback!

Cygnatti
September 19th 2013



21349 Comments


I is interested.

Digging: The Avalanches - Since I Left You

Synthpop
September 19th 2013



56 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

worth checking out fo sho

Gyromania
September 19th 2013



15199 Comments


really good review, keep it up

Chrisjon89
September 20th 2013



3364 Comments


great review man. love Loud City Song. still haven't gotten around to Ekstasis and don't even own this yet but i'll get to it.

Digging: Ichiko Aoba - 0%

Synthpop
September 20th 2013



56 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

aaah thank you both very much!

EaglesBecomeVultures
September 20th 2013



5192 Comments


sweet review man. seen you post a few times, welcome, we need more users like you.

Digging: Merchandise - After The End

Synthpop
September 20th 2013



56 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh wow, thanks! i'm trying my best with posting but i usually lose track of the conversations after the second page, haha.

Motiv3
September 20th 2013



8920 Comments


The only Holter I haven't heard. Will change soon.

Digging: Opeth - Pale Communion

Synthpop
September 20th 2013



56 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah i feel like a lot of people missed this one because it's older, obscurer, and it was a limited release when it first came out? i think the digital version came out around the reprint of vinyl. and i'd love to have the vinyl copy, but sadly i am poor, so i had to wait till the digital.



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