Review Summary: "oh she's been marooned, can anybody help her?"
On Loud City Song
we heard Julia Holter approaching her compositions with a keener interest in the immediacy of pop music. She was relying less on the atmospheric hazes and vaguely abstract compositions of Ekstasis
to set the stage for her voice, and instead steered towards a much more focused and structured style of songwriting. There was a greater appreciation for warmth, symphonic depth, and lucidity that seasoned the music in Loud City Song
, and these very qualities are what ascended the album to the status of Julia’s “most approachable and viscerally gratifying album” - but her latest output may be the successor for that particular title. Have You In My Wilderness
not only explores the same musical sentiment of “accessibility over ambience,” but it takes an even more dramatic leap forward into pop territory. The album, more often than not, remains grounded in a style of moody chamber-pop in the vein of artists as vintage as Scott Walker (referring to his Scott
series from the '60s) to even recent ones like Joanna Newsom. Julia’s creative agenda in Have You In My Wilderness
basically boils down to finding that sweet spot between ambition and intimacy.
In terms of the structure and aesthetics of the songs themselves, comparatively, Julia shows little advancement from what she’s shown herself to be capable of accomplishing. She’s definitely more confident in her pop sensibilities than ever before, and as a result a number of tracks, such as the impressionistic “Feel You” and the wonderfully whimsical “Everytime Boots,” explore a sturdier, dulcet sense of melodicism and are ripe with ear-catching vocals. Julia’s approach to the production is also accentuated with a more contemporary sound that gives her miniature symphonies an unpretentious demeanour. “Lucette Stranded on the Island” and “Vasquez” are among a handful of songs that do sit on the more cerebral side of the musical spectrum, but even they are not riddled in esoteric artiness. Atmosphere once again plays a pivotal role in “Lucette,” and its billowing waves of immersing, Pet Sounds
-esque chamber pop is a landmark to be encountered in the album. “Vasquez” is less scenic than “Lucette,” and instead brings a foggy, nu jazz feel to an album that rarely strays from the baroque and classically inspired framework. There’s even some hints of influences from artists like Hidden Orchestra within “Vasquez”’s disorienting amalgam of unrhymed prose poetry, swishy drumming, and chamber-jazz flourishes. ”Sea Calls Me Home” is another track that dissolves the prominent orchestral sound and explores the looseness of jazz; opening with infectiously catchy, Bach-accentuated pop before building up and erupting with a ‘60s avant-garde blowout. No matter the musical setting she constructs for herself, Julia never ceases to produce a mesmerizing tune. Despite the immediacy and mellifluousness of her instrumental arrangements, Julia's lyrics, however, remain clouded in poetic obscurity. She loves working with these vague yet evocative lyrical sketches that say just enough to communicate a mood and situation, but leave it to the listener to contemplate the meaning in her narrative. Deciphering the message in her words relies on just how much time the listener is willing to devote to the album, but with music this brilliant, the task seems all the more alluring.