Words About Music
Julia Holter “Loud City Song”
Los Angeles’ Julia Holter hasn’t quite hit her big break yet. Sure, she’s gotten great reviews from Pitchfork, NPR, and Piero Scaruffi, but she hasn’t really come into her own yet, and on “Loud City Song,” her third album, I’m still not sure that she’s even capable of doing so.
In 2011, Holter released her debut album “Tragedy,” which she followed up less than a year later with 2012’s “Ekstasis.” As I said, both albums achieved critical acclaim, and drew comparisons to Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom, among others. And I see the appeal to her avant-pop. Her vocals are gorgeous, the instrumentation is lush, the albums are produced well. But none of her music has really stuck with me in any way. I know I listened to “Ekstasis” last year, but I couldn’t tell you what it sounded like, or how many songs were on it, or what grade Pitchfork gave it. It’s just unmemorable to me, and there are people out there—Joanna Newsom, Fiona Apple, The Knife, Mariam the Believer, etc.—doing pop music in much more interesting and memorable ways.
Perhaps the reason I don’t feel any sort of connection with “Loud City Song” is that Holter based the lyrics on the musical Gigi, which I have not seen and don’t really have any desire to see whatsoever. Maybe I just find the album boring as hell with a few hidden gems that make it at least listenable. Either way, I’ve never really understood Julia Holter’s music, and that trend continues on this album. Maybe one day she’ll put out an album that will blow my mind, but so far that has not happened. I remain uninterested in her work. If anything, “Loud City Song” plays like a neoclassical droning take on the Drive soundtrack. Or if Panda Bear and Lady Gaga got wasted and recorded an album together in their drunken state that they later threw away, only to be discovered by Grimes in the middle of a molly-induced hangover.
I’m not going to say that “Loud City Song” is too weird for me, because I listen to and enjoy music that, objectively speaking, is much much more strange. But I will say that “Loud City Song” sounds strange in an unlikable way. The free jazz saxophone solos don’t sound at home here, and really distract from what could be some epic, beautiful music. And that’s coming from a free jazz fan. It’s a jumbled mish-mash of songs and sounds that hardly work together, and really ostracize those fans who’ve not seen the work that this album is based on. Don’t get me wrong, Julia Holter is an amazing vocalist, and there are some good songs on here. But for the most part, I have trouble connecting with this album, and can’t find any real reason to listen to it more than I already have.
SCORE – 5.7
FAVORITE TRACKS – World, Hello Stranger, He’s Running Through My Eyes