Review: Julia Holter – Loud City Song
Published on August 26th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Both of them are nine-track spreads that transfix and transport us into a realm where Fall Out Boy and Maroon 5 are but figments of someone’s unfounded dread.
Field recordings, unusual rhythmic punctuation and exotic instrumentation frame Holter’s extraordinarily captivating voice, one that could lure seafaring explorers to their doom and conceivably has.
This writer’s first knowing exposure to it was “Maxim’s I”, Rocksucker’s single of the week for last week, described by yours truly in the following terms…
“This is utterly, utterly magnificent: portentous, sultry, richly melodic, understated, ethereal yet voluptuous, like Michael Nyman reworking a latter day Flaming Lips number, and all topped off with the sweetest voice you could possibly imagine.
Somewhere, perhaps deep under the ocean or out in space – both locations that this could conceivably have emerged from – a bar has been raised.”
Upon revisiting “Maxim’s I”, we want to say even more about it: it’s just jaw-dropping, descending upon you and engulfing you, waves crashing upon it as if it were soundtracking the opening and/or closing credits of the most beautifully otherworldly film ever made.
Before this comes sparse opener “World”, which seems delightfully to concern itself with “hats of the world”, and after it comes the thrillingly urgent “Horns Surrounding Me”, the stabbing chorus of which descends menacingly in semitones.
When the sinister speak-singing and frenetic double bass motif of “In the Green Wild” roll around, it becomes quite clear that a) Julia Holter and her musical entourage are capable of most anything they set their collective mind to, and b) that there is to be no letup in quality across Loud City Song.
“Hello Stranger” swells with such slow-burning majesty that you’re left too dumbstruck to think of a less ‘music journo cliché’ term than “slow-burning majesty” to describe it, while the psychedelic bossa nova of “This is a True Heart” and mournful classical echo chamber of “He’s Running Through My Eyes”, the latter sung with supernatural sweetness, keep up the variety required to edge Loud City Song towards ‘classic’ territory.
“Maxim’s II” is very different to “Maxim’s I”, rumbling through its peculiar, tangential passage to gleefully unsettling effect. There’s a manic sort of theatricality shot through with a strong dose of surrealism, especially when it throws in madly blaring saxophones then escalates into a beastly cinematic stomp.
Kudos also for lyrics like “Tonight the birds are watching me / Don’t they have better things to do?”. So much to like here.
Loud City Song concludes with “City Appearing”, so gently off its rocker with the line “Everyone has left early without a hat / A fire without a hat”, so magnificent when it enters into a swirling, mesmerising fantasia of fantastical oddness.
That’s right, folks: a swirling, mesmerising fantasia of fantastical oddness. And she appears to sing something about “trombones on the roof”. Rocksucker loves Julia Holter, and her strange world.
Loud City Song is out now on Domino.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!