Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness

by Sean Hewson Rating:10 Release Date:2015-09-25

Julia Holter’s fourth album, Have You in My Wilderness, sounds like such an LA album. It has the harpsichords and lush arrangements of baroque pop outfits like The Millenium and Sagittarius. It also has the feel and vocals of a 70s Canyon album (Linda Perhacs, Judee Sill, Ezra Mohawk, Joni Mitchell). But there’s something a lot more avant-garde going on and, like Joni Mitchell, Holter stands apart from genres due to her ability and artistry.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something slightly different about Holter’s songwriting and arrangements. She surprises me more than most writers. The melodies also don’t resolve as quickly. It’s similar to what Kevin Shields did on Isn’t Anything, a total surprise that didn’t belong in a genre. It’s not just the melodies and sounds though. The lyrics are often impressionistic and slightly out of reach; which, conversely, draws you in more. You can hear that Joni Mitchel is an influence (the way the conversational nature of Everytime Boots dictates the melody). But there are also similarities to Michael Stipe in the combination of the mysterious and the heart-felt. And, like Stipe and David Byrne, Holter is reaching for a new vocabulary for pop songs. Feel You (‘It’s impossible to see who I’m waiting for in my raincoat’) has one of the best and most unlikely chorus lyrics since Jonathan Donahue’s ‘When I see your eyes arrive they explode like two bugs on glass.’ from Mercury Rev’s Goddess On The Hiway. Sea Calls Me Home’s ‘I can’t swim. It’s lucidity. So clear’ is almost as good. Singing these songs, Holter’s voice is very subtle. On first listen it seems pleasant and simple. But there are also quite left-field influences in there too, like Nico, Siouxsie, Tim Buckley, Robert Wyatt and Liz Fraser.

The album itself, both lyrically and in terms of sound, is very influenced by water. I can hear hints of a lot of great water-based songs/albums – Song To The Siren (Tim Buckley and This Mortal Coil), Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, Surf’s Up (the combination of Van Dyke Parks’ arrangements and words with Brian Wilson’s melodies is a good indication of what Holter is reaching for on this album). Sometimes (on Silhouette and Lucette Stranded On The Island) the voices and strings start building and swirling like the sea and it sounds like a combination of Tim Buckley’s backing vocals on Starsailor, MBV’s Loveless and old Hollywood film soundtracks.

Like all of the aforementioned artists, Holter effortlessly combines avant-garde sounds and ideas with pop. Feel You seems to be in 4/4 time but the drums and vocal are trying to subvert it all the way through. Sea Calls Me Home breaks into a sax solo that could almost be cheesy if it wasn’t suddenly double-tracked and moved slightly out of synch with itself so it approaches Free Jazz. This means that Have You In My Wilderness is out-there but there is also a way in. There are a lot of idiosyncratic and catchy song-writers at the moment - Perfume Genius, Liz Harris, St. Vincent, Ezra Furman – and Have You In My Wilderness puts Julia Holter at the top of the class.

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