Julia Holter
Something in the Room She Moves


3.7
great

Review

by hug rap's painful goodbye STAFF
March 31st, 2024 | 91 replies


Release Date: 03/24/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 「This is on par with some Julia Holter-type avant-garde pop」

For all her wealth of contortions and inflections, you do not have to look hard to find a setting that elevates Julia Holter from a baroque oddball to a trusted companion, be it a stiff drink with a new face over Ekstasis (2012), a twilight ponderance underscored by Loud City Song (2013), or a simple observance of Have You in My Wilderness (2015)'s cautionary lesson in keeping one's fridge free of expired milk. Her vision for plucking familiar comforts out of abstract outlines seems to find no end of fresh inspiration for intricate chamber arrangements and her distinctive vocal approach, part-childlike singsong, part-dusky chanteuse and part-scattershot birdcall. She raised these qualities to dizzying new heights on 2018's Aviary, a sprawling progressive opus that swept all possibilities of soundtrack-to-X situationalism off the table and demanded the unfiltered attention of anyone brave enough to approach its myriad peculiarities as a whole. However much gratification one derived from it (God, have the results varied on that front! Pour one out for the coven of baboons who revealed themselves as such on this site upon its release), Aviary made an iron-clad case for Holter's talents as a composer while shrugging joyously at those who had her pegged within the confines of quirky singer-songwriterdom and art-pop banality. Whatever stuffy accolades she swept up to that effect on Have You in My Wilderness have since been fobbed off to the likes of Weyes Blood and forgotten: there's no album quite like Aviary, and it's been a struggle to find a fair peer for Holter in the years since.

However much speculation there has been over the possibility Holter using her first full-length in six years to ascend even further into the stratosphere she had pierced so intrepidly on Aviary, Something in the Room She Moves perhaps wisely declines to burden itself that task and instead grounds itself in the most balanced, familiar sense of the Julia Holter Experience to date. This is still far from a conservative undertaking: the album leaves plenty of room for the oblique while showcasing as much dexterity as ever in its sophisticated arrangements, but it exudes something mellifluous and approachable that's been sidelined in Holter's sound for a good while now ("I Shall Love 2" notwithstanding), seen off – crucially! – with ample helpings of the shrouded mystique that she originally made her name on with Loud City Song.

One gleans a loose impression of this in the opener "Sun Girl", a gauzy case-in-point of Holter's knack for nursing the sensory side of otherwise enigmatic forms. Throughout its lackadaisical six minutes, she swoons through permutations of the title lyric as though caught in a current of free association (a longstanding speciality – see "Moni Mon Amie" and "Les Jeux to You"), while a woozy bassline underscores the song's delirium and sparse percussion skitters over a space where no steady rhythm can find purchase. I was miffed when I first heard it as the lead single, but "Sun Girl" sounds a good deal less standoffish easing the album in as though shaking off the hold of a particularly tenacious dream than it does as an isolated statement, especially as it proceeds to give way to two of Holter's most engaging pop tracks to date. Of these, the title-track makes for the most robust outing and will deservedly win many over with the warmth of its refrain – this is exactly the embrace your plumpest cushions should aspire to at the end of a long day – but for me the most breathless affirmation of everything I've ever loved about Julia Holter comes one place earlier on the spellbinding "These Morning". Were it released as an instrumental, I would be all over this track as a perfect snapshot of every lesson a chamber piece might learn from the more mysterious end of ECM-style jazz, but the cascading layers of unease in Holter's sublime chorus vocal (Just lie to me, just lie to me) are an absolutely exquisite showcase of both her grasp on pop immediacy and her flair for nuanced chord progressions. It's a track as complex as it is intuitive, and it's no coincidence that the album's second great highlight, "Evening Mood" scratches a similar itch, albeit more diffusely.

Easy as it is to gush over its considerable potential for gratification, Something in the Room She Moves also snags the unfortunate irony of being her least consistent album structurally. One questions the wisdom in pacing the album's most pedestrian art-pop plodder "Spinning" in between the rather tedious vocal lacuna "Meyou" and the ambient chamber snoozer "Ocean": this is a duff sequencing decision that sees the drabbest facets of the three transcend their many points of distinction and sap the life from one another. The album's entire middle third becomes a dead zone as such, dispelling a hefty chunk of the atmosphere from its opening and closing thirds as collateral – a real shame, given how otherwise seamlessly this charm is sustained. One feels slightly lower stakes in, for instance, the dizzying, Aviary-esque chamber cacophony with which "Talking to the Whisper" draws itself to a climax: this lands as the album merely regaining momentum rather than dishing out the sweeping finale it deserves to be viewed as, and the following closer-epilogue "Who Brings Me" plays as an outright timid shuffle out of the spotlight as such.

Disjointed and self-sabotaging as it may be as a full listen, Something in the Room She Moves is more hit than miss by far: it is cohesive enough in its bookend pockets to make up for the fracture it incurs midway, and if its impression of 'balance' is distorted by select outliers to scan as a scattier affair than needed be, then this might have been addressed by the simple omission of its most token composer-ly outing ("Meyou") to better spotlight the pieces that make more refined use of her full range of strengths. "Sun Girl" and "Talking to the Whisper" are especially comprehensive in their mix of compositional oddities with inviting soundscapes and memorable refrains, and with its pop roster on near-perfect footing, Holter stands in good stead to win back the slither of her audience she so successfully perturbed on Aviary. Even if she is done splaying out the furthest boundaries of her sound, one can hardly complain that she's doubling down on the qualities she's always excelled at when she sounds as refreshed and refreshing as she does here.




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user ratings (70)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2024


60171 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Sorry sorry this is late, had no plans to review it until it exceeded my expectations on release day and have spent too long chewing over it since. Probably my favourite thing she's done since LCS, although it got me to revisit Aviary and it's close between the two hmm THANK YOU JESPER

Further reading: https://www.sputnikmusic.com/blog/2022/08/28/an-interview-with-ajcollins15/

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2024


5426 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

perfect

rabidfish
March 31st 2024


8684 Comments


It's fine. Some of it is quite good. But def not in my top 3 Julia.
Still better than most other stuff, btw

Frippertronics
Emeritus
March 31st 2024


19513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

bless

Jots
Emeritus
April 1st 2024


7561 Comments


kinda on-the-nose summary tbh ... interesting

hmmm is this the real false-johnny, or a false false-johnny

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2024


3927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Sun Girl perfect

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2024


3927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Sun Girl perfect

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2024


60171 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

it is sun girl don't call me

summary is cursed and uh yeah hit that first comment link

theBoneyKing
April 1st 2024


24369 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album, I like the different influences and styles she tries out here and appreciate that it’s more digestible than Aviary. I like the psych influences.

Sowing
Moderator
April 1st 2024


43938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, need to give this another spin. I liked it and agree it felt more digestible, but somehow it also seemed less substantial. Interesting and enjoyable listen, regardless.

tectactoe
April 1st 2024


7262 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Another stunner.

hamid95
April 1st 2024


1178 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

oh, how i've missed me some new julia holter

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
April 1st 2024


26025 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

This is great, on first listen clicked much better than Aviary but it’s been stupid long since I’ve heard that

brainmelter
Contributing Reviewer
April 1st 2024


8318 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice read, album is gud

tectactoe
April 1st 2024


7262 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

AVIARY is a masterpiece

rabidfish
April 2nd 2024


8684 Comments


Aviary is a masterpiece.
Loud City Song and Ektasis are also better than this.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 2nd 2024


60171 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Ekstasis is probs the fairest comparison quality-wise - works much better as an album experience, but I think this has more great songs overall so they're about even idk

rabidfish
April 2nd 2024


8684 Comments


the singles+tt are the highlights for me. Meyou and Ocean are just very boring pieces, really not vibe with those.

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
April 2nd 2024


3927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

bass incredible throughout ay

Pikazilla
April 2nd 2024


29702 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

this is just a trite baroque snoozefest



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