7 November 2015
Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness
This is an album that I have been anticipating with some curiosity; two years ago I was introduced to the work of Julia Holter with 'Loud City Song' (cleverly linked here) which was suggested to me by the legend that is Adam Potts. At the time I gave it a seven out of ten, but over the years it has grown for me into an album that (if reviewed now) would be a nine at the very least. Sometimes albums need time to mature and grow, which brings us onto the latest album from Ms Holter. This album when released in the UK actually made the top thirty on the week of release and I have been playing it for a while just to get used to it, mainly because I know that I find any album by Julia Holter takes a few times to settle in with me (much like MGMT, Chris Cornell solo work and anything solo from a Depeche Mode member - I have two of those to review soon). The cover is a black & white photo of Ms Holter with the album title and record company logo, it is a moody image that actually feels like an alternative version of 'Push the Sky Away' from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. So after a small time to mule over this album (seriously I need months with this lady's music), it is time to find out what is out there in the wild.
“Feel you” starts with the sound of a harpsicord, beautiful vocals merging and off-beat drums mashing together to give a dreamscape opening for this album. The imagery of the words drifts from holiday memories and a sense of waiting on someone. It is a charming opening which does attempt to transport you to a different place with the music, you will also know within a few moments of listening to this if you are going to be able to invest in this. It is a style of music which I find charming, imaginative and full of little sections which reveal more with each listen, I know other people are not so receptive to this and I understand why – but I do think that this opening track is worth investment. “Silhouette” once more has that holiday feeling to the music rolling over from “Feel You” at the beginning of the song, it could easily be played in a chill out session on a beach holiday and would sound as beautiful if it was played on a cold November afternoon in the North East of England (which it is being done at the time of reviewing). It is a song about relationships - most of which is once again open to interpretation (which is something else I adore about music at times), which slowly but surely turns into a surreal noise nightmare at the end which actually raises my interest even more. From that chill out start the instruments are added until you have a wall of sound (see what I did there), which reminds me of the end of “A Day In The Life” by The Beatles and the drama of the ending of “Jealousy” by the Pet Shop Boys – these are both great songs and to be as imaginative as these songs takes talent. “How long?” is the third song from this album which starts with haunted strings and a haunted vocal delivery, it is a strange song that is more warning/horror tune than anything else. It really could be used in a film noir or art house movie for all of its dark textures and suspense rich music that infuses the listener with a mixture of emotions – regret, urgency to leave, wishing to stay and slowly building dread as it goes along. Now it might sound as if I am being down on this track, but I am truly loving it for those exact reasons. It is a mysterious and moody song that Lana Del Rey wishes she could do, but fails to achieve with all of those funds at her disposal – Julia Holter nails it without even trying.
“Lucette Stranded on the Island” follows on with strange percussion as Ms Holter sings over it with a hushed tone as the rest of the strings and drums are slowly getting louder. It is back to the strangely surreal dreamscape pop of “Feel You” when the chorus drops on the audience, it has a strange beat which will not settle well with some people; however this is not a traditional type of song as everything sways in and out of focus, musical sections are removed and reintroduced to give the song a motions that is akin to the waves hitting the shore. There is a cry for help in this song and sometimes the lyrics are a little too low in the mix for my tastes, but I love the way that it all comes together to make a sound like nothing else that is currently on my radar by a long shot. The only thing that I would have changed is that it repeats the building chorus idea that was used on “Silhouette” with great effect and it did not require that same ending, but this is only my opinion and not gospel fact – still a good song. "Sea Calling Me Home" evokes memories of 1970's Elton John with early Kate Bush (lazy I know, I am sorry - but there is another artist in there who is evading my memory) and has a huge feeling about the sound and it keeps that strange feeling going on. It has a messed up saxophone solo in the middle that drives the central section of this song. It does feel as if it was carved in a previous generation and given a new life and purpose in the modern age as the technology was not ready all those years ago. The texture of the music is mixed in with a snare drum beat, strong piano work, vocal effects and it goes around the listener from left to right; you are introduced to things in batches and then it ends with this quiet vocal that you strain to her. It is a decent number, for me it is not as effective as other songs on here but it is still well played. "Night Song" is an ambient number as the lady is awaiting the return of her beloved in a public area, yearning for her lost love to come back. Once more we are in dreamscape territory here, it works on the emotional level and starts off with very little going on; by the end it is building to a moment where all the strings and vocals merge to this plea for redemption and just being told exactly what they had done. It is stark and takes a while for to give itself up to you, but you have to be patient with this one. You are going to have to give your time to it as it is not immediate in its release, but it is worth it in the end as that build at the end of the song is beautifully executed and delivered.
"Every time Boots" starts off with strange chimes, then a speedy paced drum is introduced with a keyboard sound that can be best described as speedily slow; it is faster than the last few song, but as this type of music is not meant to be running along like a pack of hounds on the hunt, you are not exactly going to get anything really faster than this and it would not really suit Ms Holter's vocal range. Anyway, back to the song itself - it is more dream pop that has an undercurrent of rock about it in its rhythm and a strange mixture of styles going on once more. I will be honest, it is the song I have struggled with the most and still feels a little alien to me. "Besty on the Roof" is six minutes, sixteen seconds long and it is a slow, emotive and a remorseful song that centres on an opening piano performance that is well crafted from Ms Holter. The strings come into the song around the two minute, thirty second mark and it takes a little away from the song if I am honest. It is still a good song that holds your attention, but the opening bravado and emotional nakedness of those first two minutes is much better than the psychedelic musings which ends the song. The penultimate song is called "Vasquez" which is just as long as "Besty on the Roof", all art-pop with an avant-garde centre that melts the heart and some of the most interesting sections of music that comes from this album. It does drift a little which is why "Night Song" pips it for song of the album; but they are two different beasts - "Night Song" is a lonesome, heartbreak of a song, "Vasquez" is a strange drum with a haunting melody that skips around a number that mixes jazz, art pop, psychedelia and the more outlandish parts of the musical realm. It is a truly interesting song, another that really needs more time to unfold in front of you. The end song is "Have You in My Wilderness", which starts off with a mixture of voices to form a choir as Ms Holter bares her heart once more, then a deep bass, strings and piano come into the song. This is another song that makes the hair on your neck stand to attention, brimming with the emotional volatility that has been peppered through this album like spicy chillies on a pizza. It is joint second with "Vasquez" in terms of best song on the album, it has a gentle soul that goes so well with the song that it makes you forget where you are for the few moments that it is in the world, ending this album on a stirring moment.
I will get this one out of the way first, it is not as strong of a release as 'Loud City Song' for me, it does not grab you as the previous album and a few of the songs could have been cut down a little for my tastes. However, it also has three of the strongest songs I have heard on an album this year in "Vasquez", "Night Song" and "Have You in My Wilderness". Those songs elevate this album up for me, they form the focus for this album which can drift into strange waters at times. It is still a strong album which I know will (and has been) well received by her audience and the underground media, it is one which gives more each time and will probably grow over the years into a classic - at this moment (for me at least) it is only an accomplished release which will be something that I will return to as soon as possible. The funny thing is, I said the same about 'Loud City Song' and gave it a lower mark - I reckon this might be one for the future which I regret giving such a low mark, as I do with 'Loud City Song'.
7.5 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out
Top track - Night Song
You can purchase Have You in My Wilderness from Amazon here
You can visit Julia Holter website here
You can follow the activities of Julia Holter on Facebook here
You can stream Have You in My Wilderness on Spotify here
You can stream Have You in My Wilderness on Deezer here
You can stream Have You in My Wilderness on Tidal here
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