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Chosen One: Julia Holter

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Interview with Julia Holter by Cillian Murphy.

“Leave well alone. Don’t meddle any more. Can’t you see she is far beyond us?”
She pointed to Gigi, who was resting a trusting head and the rich abundance of her hair on Lachaille’s shoulder. The happy man turned to Madame Alvarez.
“Mamita,” he said, “will you do me the honour, the favour, give me the infinite joy of bestowing on me the hand…”

(—Excerpt from Colette’s 1944 novella ‘Gigi’)

Interview: Cillian Murphy
Illustration: Craig Carry, Introduction: Mark Carry


An incomprehensible beauty forever lies at the heart of the work of L.A. based artist, Julia Holter. The latest masterpiece ‘Loud City Song’ is the gifted songwriter’s third in as many years, and is the highly anticipated follow-up to last year’s sublime ‘Ekstasis’ album. Having first heard ‘In The Same Room’ many moons ago – a single taken from ‘Ekstasis’ – the vital significance and preciousness of Holter’s art became immediately apparent to me. The swirling notes of harpsichord and keys drift slowly amidst Holter’s captivating voice, evoking a daydream sequence washed in a lifetime of distant memories: “I can’t remember your face / but I hope the ship will carry us there.” Fleeting moments of life’s unfolding mysteries are embedded in all three records – from 2011’s debut ‘Tragedy to the latest ‘Loud City Song’ – that endlessly reveal new meaning and hidden depths of truth.

‘Loud City Song’ showcases Holter’s rare gift for the creation of highly innovative and utterly breathtaking contemporary pop music. A sense of mystery and intrigue is interwoven between the tapestry of beguiling sounds and vivid colours conjured up by Holter and her ensemble of peerless musicians. At the heart of ‘Loud City Song’ is a story, inspired by the musical ‘Gigi’, whose central character – the innocent teenage girl, Gigi – someone Holter closely identified with, having watched it many times growing up. ‘Loud City Song’ has been described by Holter as a search for love and truth in a superficial society. Set in turn-of-the-century Paris, Colette’s timeless novella (first published in 1944) offers a user’s manual on how to live fearlessly and joyfully. Similarly, the sonic creations of ‘Loud City Song’ documents the hopes, dreams and fantasies of Gigi – the album’s loosely-based narrative – that creates an entirely unique world for the listener to become part of. Themes such as pressures from society, individualism, loneliness and celebrity culture are etched across the resolutely unique canvas of ‘Loud City Song’. ‘Gigi’ is merely a starting point, as the plethora of characters and multitude of emotion cast, results in a deeply enriching experience of the human condition. ‘Loud City Song’ is indeed “like an audio cinematic experience.” From the album opener ‘World’, which serves ‘Loud City Song”s enthralling prologue, to the heart wrenching ballad of Barbara Lewis’ ‘Hello Stranger’, a world of love, fantasy, “winter words” and “falling leaves” beautifully encapsulate the world of ‘Loud City Song’.

all the heavens of the world.
Are you looking for anything?
Heaven with eyes bright green
Everyday my eyes are older,
I grow a bit closer to you.


Similar to ‘Goddess Eyes’ on previous album ‘Ekstasis’, the tour de force ‘Maxim’s’ is present on ‘Loud City Song’ as two separate versions; ‘Maxim’s I’ and ‘Maxim’s II’, providing the focal point to the album’s narrative. The song is named after the storied Maxim’s restaurant in Paris that is prominently featured in the musical, ‘Gigi’. A key scene which resonated for Holter was the scene in which Gigi enters the bustling Maxim’s only to be greeted with complete silence as the restaurant’s patrons gaze at her judgmentally. Holter sings on the chorus, “Into Maxim’s we will see them walk / Will they eat a piece of cheese or will they talk?” as the orchestra of brass and string sections create a frenzy of commotion, depicting the loudness of the superficial society that surrounds her. A parallel can be made between Colette’s early twentieth century Paris and that of Holter’s native L.A. In many ways; both societies share common celebrity culture, where the setting of ‘Loud City Song’ could easily be that of modern-day Los Angeles as much as Colette’s depiction of turn-of-the-century Paris. The frantic tempo of ‘Horns Surrounding Me’ evokes the sound of paparazzi chasing after an identified celebrity, where the sound of a marching band storms to the foreground of the mix. At the core, a feeling of pain and isolation radiates from the ‘cold night’ as Holter sings “Moon, they forget how soft heart is, unfolding over time.”

Unlike the previous two records, ‘Loud City Song’ is the first album Holter recorded outside of her bedroom. The songs were written and composed by Holter – some as far back as 2011, at the time of debut album ‘Tragedy’ – later to be worked on (mixed and co-produced) by Ariel Pink collaborator Cole Marsden Greif-Neill (who also mixed ‘Ekstasis’). Holter would join an ensemble of musicians in a professional studio in L.A. for six days to record the layers of tracks. Joining Holter (keyboards, vocals) were the brass section of Chris Speed (saxophone), Brian Allen (trombone) and Matt Barbier (trombone), violinist Andrew Tholl, cellist Christopher Votek, Ramona Gonzalez (Nite Jewel) on backing vocals, Corey Fogel on percussion, and Devin Hoff on bass. The time-staking process of mixing Holter’s vocals came later. The result is a performative record where undoubtedly the acoustic instrument of Holter’s voice provides the aesthetic that graces the divine beauty of the album’s timeless soundscapes. Other sources of inspiration came from Joni Mitchell and poet Frank O’Hara. The spirit of Mitchell is particularly evident on album closer ‘City Appearing’, a whirlwind jazz odyssey that lies somewhere between ‘Blue’ and ‘Hejira’. Holter asks on the opening lines of the second verse: “Is it the hand of love so rough / what we’re feeling for the first time?” Much like O’Hara’s poetry, which were based on his observations of New York life, many of the characters and songwriting stemmed from ‘Loud City Song’ can be seen as Holter’s observations of L.A. life, where I feel poems such as ‘1951’ and ‘A City Winter’ could find a deserved place in Holter’s audio poem-come-song cycle.

The sequencing of ‘Loud City Song’ is immaculate as one feels a sense of movement and character progression from beginning to end. Furthermore, the depths of loneliness and despair are overcome as the journey unfolds, culminating in a wave of joy as celebration prevails, as “all the birds of the world make their way over with new softer songs to sing” on album closer ‘City Appearing’. The album’s centerpiece, for me, is the cover version of Barbara Lewis’ ‘Hello Stranger’ which is engulfed in a beguiling and cinematic atmosphere of loss and longing, yet an infinite light of hope shines forth amidst the chorus of singing birds in the background. A consoling ebb and flow of strings accompanies the achingly beautiful vocals of Holter as she sings “I’m so happy that you’re here again” on the song’s close. ‘He’s Running Through My Eyes’ is one of the most beautiful songs to have graced this earth. The delicacy and fragile beauty of this piano-led ballad transcends space and time. The lyric “But when summer’s over, will he remember winter words?” resonates powerfully. The soulful pop opus of ‘This Is A True Heart’ is reminiscent of Arthur Russell, Laurie Anderson and indeed the feel of Colette and Gigi’s elegant Parisienne streets and boulevards. The rise on ‘In The Green Wild’ serves as one of the euphoric moments of ‘Loud City Song’. The peerless musicianship of Holter’s ensemble and daringly beautiful arrangements is on full display.

In the green wild I am gone
my hands, toes, shoulders gone
but the shoes my feet have worn still remain
and they walk toward the sea
there’s a flavor to the sound of walking
no one ever never noticed before.

(‘In The Green Wild’)

Similar to ‘Loud City Song’, Holter’s debut ‘Tragedy’ drew from literature already made, namely, Euripides’ ‘Hippolytus’. One of the songs, ‘Celebration’, centers on Hippolytus worshipping Artemis and purity. A lyric contained in this song, for me, epitomises the truly transcendent nature of Julia Holter’s sacred songbook, that serves the perfect embodiment of Holter’s utterly captivating work: “We are moved by your radiance.” This truly unique voice in today’s music world has created yet another true work of art, in the form of ‘Loud City Song’. A question is posed by the young Gigi in Colette’s novella: “What is an artistic jewel?” For someone asking the same question today, one needs to look no further than Holter’s remarkable ‘Loud City Song’.


‘Loud City Song’ is out now on Domino.



Interview with Julia Holter by Cillian Murphy.

CILLIAN MURPHY: First of all, I discovered your music through ‘Ekstasis’; a record I really, really loved and played it all the time. And then this record, I was really looking forward to it. It has completely bewitched me, I have to say, and I have listened to it a lot. You are in L.A. right? I read that L.A. is a part of the inspiration for the record or features in some of the themes of the record. Is that right?

JULIA HOLTER: Yes, sort of. Well, what it was is I basically grew up in L.A., so for me it’s one of those things where basically I was making a story, and the story was kind of inspired by ‘Gigi’ which is the music from this musical. So, I was trying to build a setting for this story, and the setting was a city – and it could be any city – and for me it’s L.A. because I know L.A. But I’m not enforcing it as L.A. It’s not called L.A. I always think you have to do what you know; you have to write about what you know, to some extent. But, obviously, I don’t know Gigi. I’m not Gigi. But it’s like, you know, you combine what you know with other things.
L.A. is what I know, so it’s the scene. Then there is also a bigger song, ‘Horns Surround Me’ where it’s specifically paparazzi chasing actors. Yeah, that’s what it is sort of in my mind, but it doesn’t have to be though for most people. But in [my] mind what it was, ‘Horns Surrounding Me’ is like a marching band chasing after me, symbolizing paparazzi or something. But that’s stuff that doesn’t happen just in L.A., but it’s definitely a big L.A. phenomenon.

CM: Well yeah, that’s for sure.

JH: And I’m sure you know way more about this than I do.

CM: Well, thankfully I’ve avoided that aspect of what I do. For the most part, I’m incredibly boring and they tend to leave me alone. I know the city just as a visitor, you know, and I always found something about the city that it’s like a public and a private L.A., and it’s a really easy city to hide in, or escape into.

JH: Yeah, exactly.

CM: And a lot of stuff goes on behind closed doors. That resonated with me when I listened to the record. I love that song ‘World’ as well. It’s such a big title for a song but I love how you reduce it down to such small mundane things. And I love that thing about always wearing a hat, and the city can’t see my eyes and stuff. I think that’s a kind of L.A. thing. It really resonated with me and I guess you can apply it to other cities but there is something about L.A. that is unique.

JH: I see what you’re saying, it’s like I think that a lot of times when I’m talking to people in interviews and they haven’t been here at all, and I’m sure you’ve been here a lot. Yeah, I think you’re right. I think it’s something I’m not even conscious of, because I always say, no it’s not just about L.A. but maybe it is specifically this private and public, like you say. I do think though that it’s easy to hide here. There is not as much hype about things like there is in New York or London. More people come out to my shows in London or New York than in L.A. People are more oblivious and everything is more mysterious, and I actually like that.

CM: Yeah, I like that too. And in terms of – you just touched on it there – the music scene in Los Angeles, I would imagine it’s a great place you know, there’s a great music scene and a lot of collaboration between musicians. Would I be right in saying that?

JH: Yeah, I think so. I mean there’s a lot of space in L.A. One thing, I think it’s sort of collaborative I guess – like I’ve done a little bit of collaborating – people can hide away and do their thing and work on it really intensely here. It feels that people can be very introspective and deep into their creative ball and feel comfortable doing that.

CM: Is that what you did, I mean the first two albums were recorded at home, in your bedroom. That’s what I read, is that right?

JH: Yeah, I was really isolated.

CM: Did you find that a good thing? Because I mean the albums are amazing. Did you find that a useful thing in terms of making the records?

JH: Yeah, I think it was good for me to have that experience. It was really hard because mixing your own music can be really hard and especially when there are so many layers – layers of sounds and atmosphere – and every second I wanted to adjust the atmosphere a little bit, so I’m really particular about the atmosphere at every given point. So, I think it was really hard to mix and frustrating but it was good to go and learn how to do it myself.

CM: And this record was different in that it was recorded more conventionally, in the studio with musicians. Is that right?

JH: Yeah, it’s kind of complicated because I actually do a lot of stuff at home as well. I wrote and recorded the demos for the record, maybe a year and a half before the record was recorded. They have a lot of it already planned out and then we called Greif-Neill who produced the record with me.

CM: From Ariel Pink, right?

JH: Yeah, he produced Ariel’s last record I think, and also with Nite Jewel and some friends of mine. It was really nice to work with him because he has worked with Ariel and Nite Jewel, and both of them have started as solo people and then moved on to working in the environment of a studio. Like, they started just working in their rooms, you know. So he really knows that transition. So, he heard the demos and he was really into it and he made this plan. And his plan always puts in mind that I’m always used to working in my own space and time on my own. And so he made it. So, what we did was that I arranged all the parts for the musicians first and we recorded them for six days in a professional studio with an engineer and everything and friends helping out with the engineering. The whole rest of the album was months and months of recording my vocals, which we did at Cole [Greif-Neill]’s house at home. And then he has this little studio and then recording key parts in my house, like, just myself in my house, recording it. And then mixing it. So it was really the longest part; the post-recording. Recording the instruments was the easiest part. And then it was all about creating the atmosphere and stuff.

CM: Oh wow, so all in all then, from when you wrote the demos to when you finally mixed the record to when you put it out, how long did that take?

JH: I think like writing the demos was two years ago, at least. I mean it’s complicated. While I was writing ‘Ekstasis’, there was a song that was going to be on it and it’s what’s now called ‘Maxim’s II’, and that song ‘Maxim’s’ was going to be on this record. I was like this is so weird because this doesn’t really fit on the rest of ‘Ekstasis’ and that’s how I came up with the idea of ‘Loud City Song’.

CM: I see. And that title by the way, can you elaborate on that at all?

JH: There is this loudness of society, [this] is what I was attracting. And the story of Gigi and the story that I’m bringing out – sort of the individual that is being bombarded by society in some ways, feeling the weight of society, like they’re trying to work against society in some way. And society is very loud in that way.
That’s what I was getting at. Again, the loudness of society and whether that’s pressuring people into doing something, like in ‘Gigi’ or whatever or society itself is overwhelming to the individual. I was thinking for me that how today it’s really true – not just the noise of society but the noise of the media – and when, for example, you turn on your TV and the advertisements are really loud. Sound engineers have talked about how now the commercial pop hit is way louder than it used to be, like all distorted compared to commercial pop hits of twenty years ago. So, it’s kind of like an overall general idea of loudness of society.

CM: Yeah, I mean I can’t get over the way in America, they pipe music in shopping malls but even outdoors from shopping centers. I find that extraordinary. An extraordinary assault, even when you’re outside, you know.

JH: It’s really horrible. When I was shopping the other day, and it was like, I need to leave right now, it was just so horrible how loud it is. Is this Abercrombie and Snitch or something? [laughs]

CM: I get distressed and I do not want to shop. It doesn’t put me in the mood for shopping [laughs].

JH: I know.

CM: I’m just not a good shopper, maybe. I haven’t read ‘Gigi’, but I have read some of the other of Colette’s books. Would you consider it then, you know, give it the whole “conceptual album” tag, or is that something you’re happy to embrace, or is it more something you are just inspired by, and took some ideas from?

JH: I don’t know. I’m open to either perspective because, for me, it’s really like my record ‘Tragedy’ and unlike ‘Ekastsis’. It is a unified story in a way, not necessarily that it follows a straight narrative, because it doesn’t really. But it’s a story, just like ‘Tragedy’ was a story, and both ‘Tragedy’ and ‘Loud City Song’ are inspired by stories that previously exist. So if people call it a concept album that’s fine. I know it’s kind of like a cheesy genre, people think that it’s kind of gimmicky. I guess I just think about it, like, for me, a record is, you make a record, like a book or anything, like a collection of poems, and there’s something that unites them in some way usually. Like with ‘Ekstasis’ it was all like individual songs, they weren’t united like one story. But they were all planned to be on one record and curated for that purpose, because they were meant to be together on an album but they don’t fit into one story. There is some differentiation you have to make, I guess, with a record like ‘Ekstasis’ and a record like ‘Loud City Song’. And whatever you want to call it, you know, I don’t really mind either way. I have trouble figuring out what it’s called myself. It’s a concept album, that’s fine, you know. I think of it as a story because I don’t want people to think that I have a sort of a message.

CM: Well, for me, the more you listen to it, the more it reveals itself. And now, to me, that’s the sign of a great album. I’m going to quote you something – and I hate when people quote me back on interviews because I never remember saying it – but “I’m basically into creating movies that are albums as opposed to albums that are like sound from movies”. Do you remember that?

JH: Oh right, because basically when people ask if it’s like a soundtrack or something.

CM: I thought that was a brilliant quote.

JH: Oh yeah, thanks. That’s something I’m really into the idea of making an audio poem or something, like an audio cinematic experience.

CM: Well, that’s what you get from it, and I think you have achieved it wonderfully. And from start to finish, your mood changes, like in a film, it elicits different emotional responses.
I went to see Björk a couple of nights ago and she was doing her ‘Biophilia’ show. I just saw the boldness in her compositions and she’s not afraid of concept either in terms of the music she makes. Particularly on ‘Maxim’s II’, it reminded me of Björk a lot, and I was just wondering what you think of her and have you been asked about that comparison before?

JH: Actually, I haven’t been asked about Björk that much. I think there’s something about my style, but I think I know what you mean. First of all, I think that she is amazing and I think she is an amazing writer and interesting, and I admire her a lot. But I’ve never seen her live show, but I’d love to. I’ve heard they’re really incredible. Like she is a totally visionary. But the thing I’ve listened to the most of hers is that soundtrack she did with a Japanese show in it. It’s like a soundtrack she made but it’s amazing. But I love her songs and I think I need to listen to more of her. I still haven’t dug in completely.

CM: I think it’s more in terms of the fearlessness she has and I think that you seem to have it in the music. What I love about your music is that it’s music you listen to, it’s not necessarily music you put on while you’re washing the dishes. I love that and I think that that’s important nowadays.

JH: That’s really cool, yeah.


(Illustration based on the Rufus Norris film “Broken”, starring Cillian Murphy, Tim Roth, and Lily James.)

CM: I just wanted to talk about two more songs on the album. ‘Hello Stranger’, I mean it’s kind of heart-stopping. I just wondered why you decided to use that tune? I don’t know if you’ll agree but it’s a unique interpretation but it’s also, I think weirdly faithful to it as well, if that isn’t a contradiction.

JH: So, I grew up listening to Barbara Lewis’ song ‘Hello Stranger’ that she wrote. And I listened to her version. I actually don’t know any other version, I only know hers. I grew up listening, it was on a compilation my mom had growing up. First of all, I covered it four years ago, like a cover in my room, playing it out loud, live. I recorded it live, like a room recording of me singing and playing on keyboard, pretty similar to the vibe on the final version. So, in ‘Gigi’, the musical, there is a scene, and a song actually called ‘I Remember It Well’ where Lachaille and Gigi’s great-aunt are meeting again, after [having] had an affair like years and years ago in their youth, and they’re having lunch together and reminiscing about it. But they can’t remember it really well. Or, at least that he keeps on messing up, “we had dinner at nine” and she is like , “we had breakfast.” She keeps correcting them. It’s kind of hokey but it’s kind of sweet, like this song.

So, it was sort of, for me, this song ‘Hello Stranger’ is sort of similar in that it’s an exploration of two people, of memory, a version of memory and the faults of memory, and how you recall things from the past but they’re either too vague or they’re inaccurate. So, with ‘Hello Stranger’, the Barbara Lewis song that she wrote, it’s very vague, there’s very little explanation of anything but you have a sense that he hurt her and she’s in love with him still and she doesn’t want to get hurt again, or whatever. So, kind of like that Janet Jackson song ‘Again’, I think, which I also love.

But in Barbara Lewis’ song, it’s like: “Please don’t hurt me”, but that’s all, there is no real detail. So, you have a real hazy sense of what happened. I think it’s the same for that moment in ‘Gigi’. A lot of the songs were inspired by taking off points from that musical, that’s what happened, and I was like, this song would be perfect for this record, even though no one will make that connection unless I tell them about that scene. It’s kind of convoluted but to me I just knew; I trusted that it would work somehow, put that song in there subliminally without people knowing why it was there.

CM: And where it sits on the record too. I don’t know, it’s so warm and it’s just so beautiful. It really is. I love it.

JH: Great.

CM: Playing this record live then and touring it, it’s got such an amazing response from everybody; everybody loves it. I just wanted to know how when you record a record and then you have to go and play those songs live. Does that change the songs and how does it feel for you playing those songs in a live setting?

JH: Yeah, live, they start a different life. One of the things I realized early on is that you can’t re-create the record live because you’re in a totally different situation, you got an audience in front of you. Even if you play back the track and sing over it, you’re not re-creating, or even if you press play – you don’t sing and you play the whole track in the room while the audience is there – there is a performance and a visual aspect, that you’re there, you’re performing for people, it’s like a totally different thing. And so I was taking this approach – performance is very different from recording though – like two separate things. So, when I perform them, I arranged the songs particularly for the live set. With this record it’s been so much easier.

Last year, what we did with ‘Ekstasis’, which I recorded all myself except for mixing, and arranged for drum and cello and me, so basically it was me re-arranging the entire record for a new ensemble. Whereas on this record, this time I’m working with the same musicians pretty much, I just have my arrangements from the recording session, notated and a lot of stuff was improvised by them on the spot or we came up with slightly different ideas, because obviously you don’t have as many layers as you do in the recording session. You have to, like, cut down and come up with ways of how to fill it in. For the most part it was a lot easier than last year. It’s been really fun and also because I have a lot more people, and I have saxophone, violin, cello, drums, and me.

CM: And do you play the album from start to finish or do you mix it up with earlier albums, or how do you go about it?

JH: I haven’t done the album from start to finish but that would be interesting. I think one day we will do it for fun.

CM: Yeah, I’d like to be there for that. Because you trained classically and you compose your stuff, and you say, you composed the parts for the other players on the record, does that mean the players themselves have to be able to read music and be reasonably classically trained or how does that work?

JH: I mean I would definitely be into working with people who didn’t and I have. But a lot of times I do like to have people who have, we can have sessions about it and it’s easy to communicate because we all have some background in theory and stuff. But definitely I don’t think it’s a requirement. Because I need people to read the arrangements and stuff for the recording, it was important.

CM: Training as a piano player, is that something you wanted to do? Were you always singing when you were playing the piano, and when did the two sort of come together?

JH: First of all, I played classical piano when I was about eight and I don’t play anymore because of college and then I stopped classical. I was never very great. I really loved it but in classical music there is so many amazing pianists and I was not one of those. I was good because I loved practicing, and I always did [practice] and I loved playing but I wasn’t really great or anything. So I quit the classical piano. In high-school, I started getting interested in the possibility of playing the songs I like and listen to. I started playing Joni Mitchell and started singing along, and I hated my voice. But I loved singing anyway.

When I was younger, even like, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, The Beatles, Radiohead, the bands and stuff that I liked, and Billie Holliday…so, I was trying out a lot of different voices for fun. I never wrote music until I was, like, sixteen or seventeen, and that wasn’t for singing. Actually, [they were] some of the worst songs but they were from classical piano and not me. It was in classical music and I was writing in composition, and I went into composition in college at grad school, and that was my degree. It was like, I wasn’t seeing myself at all as a performer. I was like a composer who would write music for other people to perform. And I never sang much except I did start choir – because it was mandatory in college – for the first time. But then I got out of that because I didn’t like it. Then, what happened is that I discovered recording. The minute I discovered recording I felt free to try stuff with my voice and I was, like, maybe my voice isn’t that bad, it’s okay. You can mess with your voice and try different things and be poetic, and it was really fun for me, and to discover myself as a singer and a performer was a shocker, for sure. I mean, I didn’t see myself in that way at all. I never get nervous about performing unless there is a reason for me to be nervous, but I actually quite take to it and I like it.

CM: That’s very, very interesting. I identify with that because, well, I played music a bit before I became an actor – to a very low-level – but when I started acting onstage in theatre, I never got nervous. It was weird. I get nervous on film because it’s there forever, it’s indelible, whereas in theatre you can have a better show the next day. The sense of having some sort of control. And when did you reconcile yourself to your voice then because I know that John Lennon, all his life, hated it, he was always double-tracking his voice and putting it through some effect.

JH: I know. I love that effect he uses. It’s that thing, it’s really interesting. I think it’s like a really short delay effect. I think that’s a really interesting topic because I always still have trouble with my voice, listening to it pure, unless it’s really done right. And one of the things I think is that when – you’ll understand this as an actor – when you’re performing you aren’t yourself. In music as well, when I’m performing I’m neither myself – because I wouldn’t be interested in me as a subject – but I’m also not one particular persona, you know how some artists or musicians have a certain persona they always have. So, for me, I take on a different character for every song. Like, even within a record, every song has to have a different character, and for that reason I find it difficult to hear my voice clearly, as if it’s me speaking. And I think there is something that musicians really hate, certain musicians who really care about the colour and the character of every song who are like, really great songwriters, and John Lennon is one of them. They really can’t stand it if it sounds just like them because they’re trying to create something else, they’re trying to make something more otherworldly, and a new character. And that’s maybe the impulse. It’s not just like, oh I hate how my voice sounds, it’s something else, like this is still me and this has to be transcending me, and it can’t be just me, it has to be this different person, you know what I mean?

CM: I do and it’s like using it as an instrument that’s not you, and it seems to me that it does sound different on each track, and even on the three records, you know. But I mean I love that, it’s a brilliant thing and you wouldn’t be able to identify with that immediately necessarily. It’s still amazing on each track. Speaking of that, in terms of the three albums, do you see that as a kind of series in any way? You were saying ‘Ekstasis’ is separate in terms of it’s not thematically like the others. But do you see them as separate or connected?

JH: I see them as pretty separate. I think they could be united by an era in my life or something, at this point my musical life has been short so it’s hard to know. But now, I would see them as being very separate. I think ‘Tragedy’ and ‘Loud City Song’ have similar goals in terms of a similar approach, let me put it that way, in that they’re inspired by a story. But I’m not necessarily going to stop doing that. Sometimes I like doing that, sometimes not, sometimes I like to assemble a collection of songs like ‘Ekstasis’. I think that I’m always going to be doing different things and that every project I take very seriously as a project in itself. But it’s definitely something that some people will see them united in some way that I can’t see because my perspective is pretty flawed of what I do. It’s always hard to judge what you’re doing to a certain extent, and you, kind of, just have to go for it. With this record, ‘Loud City Song’, I was conscious of what I was doing at the beginning, like, I was going to make a bunch of songs that are inspired by moments of this musical basically.

In the interim I kept watching that musical – I don’t generally watch that much musicals ever – but because it was engrained in me from a very young age, like I knew it so well and I could relate to the characters so easily, I just had to do it. And I went into it really blindly, like I wasn’t ever thinking twice about any one song, and I wrote it pretty quickly in a way, without any real trouble. Then I came up with things and went with my instincts and that’s kind of my approach and I’m probably never going to strategize one approach across multiple records. I’m going to just let myself go with each project, generally with a set of limits from the start, and see where it takes me.

CM: Yeah, I think that’s got to be the best. I mean it’s the impulse to do it. If the impulse is there, you just have to follow it I think, and try not to question it too much. I liked what you said as well about the stuff that people read into in records and songs with people, it’s extraordinary and I love that.
Are you touring loads now? Are you in the middle of a tour?

JH: I have a one and a half weeks break, or two weeks break and then we’re going on a shortish U.S tour and then we’re back in L.A. again, and then we go back to Europe.

CM: Are you doing festivals or is that gone now?

JH: We’re doing some festivals but it’s mostly shows this time, which will be really nice because I like shows.

CM: I would imagine your music demands attention, like I said. I’d imagine certain venues are better than others.

JH: Yeah, like some festivals are awesome, like there’s this great one in Poland called the Off Festival. Sometimes the people are most exciting [part] to a festival because there are so many of them and I love when there is a lot of people in the audience. It’s nice fun and [there’s] the energy of people. Like, we opened for Sigur Rós and that was the most exciting thing for me because there was so many people, even if they weren’t all listening, it’s okay. I know there is a lot of them and I don’t judge them for that [laughs]. But I think, in general, it’s nice to have a show where people are focused and listening and generally they are the non-festival ones.

CM: Are you constantly writing? Do you practice the piano? Are you constantly thinking about the next project even while you’re touring this record or how does that work?

JH: Yes, I think about it. I have trouble writing on tour. I have to have, like, a calm atmosphere but I can get ideas and concepts and stuff while we’re in a van for hours, and I can think of something. It’s been a bit tricky right now. I am writing this piece for the L.A. Philharmonic – due in like a month – and I’m going on tour in a week and it’s like really rough because I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it. It turns out that it takes a long time to do promotion for your record. It takes a lot of work. I’ve basically curated my record in all ways, from the artwork to the ways it’s being promoted and everything. I’m basically micro-managing everything, which is cool that Domino are letting me do that and that’s why I love that label, but it’s also a lot of work. It’s funny how much doing interviews and doing all this promotion actually takes time. It’s really scary, so we’ll see. I’m writing right now in my off-time from tour and I hope it’s going to be okay because I grew up thinking the L.A. Philharmonic is like a dream. We’ll see how it turns out.

CM: When is that going to be premiered?

JH: That’s on December 3rd I think.

CM: Well, good luck with that.

JH: Thanks.

CM: I’m sure it will be incredible. Thank you so much for taking the time, I love chatting with musicians, it’s so fascinating. I appreciate it a lot.


Cillian Murphy stars in ‘Peaky Blinders’, the new gangster drama (see preview clips here and hereset in 1920’s Birmingham, the six-part series debuts this Thursday 12th September on BBC Two. 

‘Loud City Song’ is out now on Domino. Julia Holter will tour the US this September and Europe this October and November. For full dates click here


To follow Fractured Air, you can do so on Facebook here, and on Twitter here.

Special thanks to Julia, Cillian, Robin and Colleen. 


Written by admin

September 10, 2013 at 10:57 am

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Laura Veirs “Warp and Weft” (Bella Union)
Laura Veirs has firmly established herself as one of the finest songwriters making music today. Even despite her unwavering consistency, it is nonetheless a remarkable achievement to consider this is Veirs’ ninth studio album. “Warp and Weft” (a weaving term), can be seen to sum up her music perfectly as her output has been beautifully nuanced and lovingly crafted since her self-titled debut back in 1999. Renowned producer (and husband to Veirs) Tucker Martine is on board once again. The album is a darker and denser set of songs and is another stunning achievement from Veirs that draws much inspiration from the landscape, motherhood, love and violence (the latter in the form of suicide, war and gun crime). Featuring a host of contributors including Jim James, kd lang, Neko Case and members of The Decemberists, the album sees Veirs at her beautiful, brilliant best. According to Neko Case herself, “It’s masterful; as a listener, it makes me feel loved. As a musician it makes me feel challenged and engaged.” “Warp and Weft” will be released 19th August 2013 on Bella Union.


Various Artists “Rare Cajun Recordings” (Tompkins Square)
Some of the finest compilations this year has come courtesy of the incredible San Francisco-based Tompkins Square label and their ongoing Long Gone Sound series (whose goal is “to create a catalyst for musical and cultural transformation.”) My personal highlight has been “Let Me Play This For You”, a collection of rare Cajun recordings made between 1929-1930. The tracks are by Babineaux & Guidry, Angelas LeJeune and Blind Uncle Gaspard. As the sleevenotes state: “Most of the performances on this collection have not been heard since they were original recorded on 78 rpm disc and yet they serve as a discrete Rosetta Stone for the traditional Cajun and Creole repertoire that exists today.” Also essential is “Turn Me Loose : Outsiders oF ‘Old-time’ Music”, a collection of 78 rpm records curated by Frank Fairfield, also available now on Tompkins Square.


RocketNumberNine “MeYouWeYou” (Smalltown Supersound)
London-based RocketNumberNine comprise the brothers Tom and Ben Page who have toured extensively with a hugely impressive number of acts, including Radiohead, Four Tet, Caribou, Nathan Fake and James Holden. In fact it was Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden who released RocketNumberNine’s first material, courtesy of the 12″ “Matthew & Toby” (released on Hebden’s own Text imprint) which closes “MeYouWeYou”, their debut album, available now on the wonderful Oslo-based independent label Smalltown Supersound (the incredible sleeve is courtesy of the impeccable talents of multi-disciplinary artist Kim Hiorthøy).


Laurie Anderson “Homeland” (Nonesuch)
Have been revisiting Anderson’s songbook since Colleen’s Influences mix for Second Language to coincide with Colleen’s new album “The Weighing Of The Heart” which includes Laurie Anderson’s “Big Science” (from 1982’s “Big Science” LP, Anderson’s first part in her extensive portrait of the United States). Also essential in Anderson’s considerable output is “Homeland”, released in 2010 on Nonesuch, her first album in a decade. Features the haunting sounds of Anderson’s singular violin playing, as Anderson says in the sleevenotes: “Homeland” is built on groove electronics and new string sounds for the violin. I spend a lot of time inventing new ways for the violin to sound. The string filters created melodies that turned into songs.”


Marsen Jules Trio “Presence Acousmatique” (Oktaf)
Marsen Jules has long been responsible for some of the most quietly breathtaking and tenderly beautiful music released over the last decade or so. Albums such as “Herbstlaub”, “Les Fleurs” and “Golden” have established Dortmund-based Jules as one of the finest composers making music today. As the Marsen Jules Trio, Jules is joined by twin brothers Anwar Alam and Jan-Philipp Alam on violin and piano. Across the six pieces on “Presence Acousmatique” Jules and brothers Alam create heavenly music featuring abstract ambient spaces and textured passages of impeccable musicianship.


Waxahatchee “Cerulean Salt” (Don Giovanni)
Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project began with 2012’s debut LP “American Weekend”. This year saw the release of follow-up “Cerulean Salt” (also on New Jersey independent label Don Giovanni Records). The former P.S. Eliot singer Katie Crutchfield establishes herself as one of the most promising American songwriters where her introspective, personal songs are set to wonderfully crafted guitar-based songs. For the set of songs on “Cerulean Salt” much inspiration is drawn from her family and Alabama upbringing.


fieldhead “a correction” (Gizeh Records)
fieldhead is the moniker for Leeds-born ambient/electronic composer Paul Elam who will be joining Kranky’s Loscil in Spring of next year for his European tour. As well as making his own compelling and hugely immersive ambient material, Elam is also the full-time member of Hood side project The Declining Winter and a part-time member of Glissando’s Fleeting Glimpse Ensemble. Elam’s fieldhead soundscapes are beautifully augmented by the wonderful talents of violinists Elaine Reynolds (The Boats, The Declining Winter) and Sarah Kemp (Lanterns on the Lake, The Declining Winter). Since 2010 Elam relocated to Vancouver, Canada, and has two full length studio albums to date, a host of EP’s, as well as an impressive number of remix work.


White Denim “Corsicana Lemonade” (Downtown Records/MapleMusic Recordings)
“It has taken five records to make one that sounds the way we do on stage” is how White Denim’s James Petralli describes the band’s forthcoming album “Corsicana Lemonade”. The Austin outfit will be touring with Tame Impala in October, while “Corsicana Lemonade” has been produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (whose production duties has included recent albums by both Low and Mavis Staples). LP due 28 October 2013.


Suuns “Images Du Futur” (Secretly Canadian)
Currently, Montreal’s Suuns are performing live across Europe in support of their current LP “Images Du Futur”, released earlier in the year by Secretly Canadian. Lately, the band’s profile increased with the inclusion of the track “2020” for the UK trailer to Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” where Ryan Gosling reunites with Refn for the first time since 2011’s “Drive”. “Images Du Futur” features a tight, visceral set of songs where the influences of Wire, Clinic and Radiohead can be heard.


Julia Holter “Loud City Song” (Domino)
One of the most anticipated albums of the year comes from Los Angeles-based artist Julia Holter whose previous two albums – debut “Tragedy” and follow-up “Ekstasis” – elevated Holter’s status to being hailed as one of music’s modern greats. “Loud City Song” is Holter’s first album for the Domino label (who she signed to after previous “Ekstasis” album was released on RVNG INTL) and again displays Holter’s truly individual and captivating artistry where divine musical arrangements are combined with enriching and emotionally charged songs. In fact, the origins of this set of songs predates Holter’s 2011 debut “Tragedy”, and were worked on in late 2012. Holter has expressed inspiration from Collette’s 1944 novella Gigi, the music of Joni Mitchell and the poetry of Frank O’ Hara. “Loud City Song” is released by Domino on August 19th, 2013.


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Holden “The Inheritors” (Border Community)
James Holden’s incredible follow-up to his debut LP “The Idiots Are Winning” has been some seven years in the making. Heralded by both Four Tet’s Kieran Hebdon and Caribou/Daphni’s Dan Snaith of late, the album comprises a set of genre-defying tracks and is destined to remain at “classic” status for a long, long time to come.


Jon Hopkins “Immunity” (Domino)
“Immunity” is the fourth solo album from Jon Hopkins and is destined to catapult the Eno collaborator to international recognition. The final epic title-track features King Creosote (who collaborated with Hopkins on the sublime “Diamond Mine”) and leaves the listener marvel at what Hopkins has created here.


Lee Noble “Ruiner” (Bathetic)
My first time coming across the wonderful Bathetic label – based in Asheville, NC – was through Angel Olsen’s classic LP “Half Way Home”. Lee Noble’s “Ruiner” is another classic belonging to the label, comprising unique ambient/pop songs recalling Radiohead, Grouper’s Liz Harris and richly evocative ambient textures as found on pioneering labels such as Chicago’s Kranky label.


Camera Obscura “Desire Lines” (4AD)
Glasgow’s beloved Camera Obscura released yet another classic indie-pop album this year – lead by the singularly beautiful voice of Tracyanne Campbell – ‘Desire Lines’ is the band’s eagerly awaited follow-up to gorgeous “My Maudlin Career” (also on 4AD). As always, Campbell’s songwriting is pitch-perfect, while the song arrangements are sumptuously layered echoing Spector’s wall of sound (pristine production by Tucker Martine). Features guests Paul Brainard (Richmond Fontaine) on pedal steel, Neko Case and Jim James on backing vocals.


Denseland “Like Likes Like” (m=minimal)
Berlin-based electronic label m=minimal have been quietly releasing an intriguing string of albums over the past year. “Like Likes Like” by Denseland (featuring Hanno Leichtmann, Hannes Strobl and David Moss) is a strangely compelling array of darkly textured, minimal compositions featuring the singular vocals of David Moss.


Califone “Stitches” (Dead Oceans)
Indie favourites Califone return with the hugely anticipated “Stitches” LP this Autumn on the Dead Oceans label. The title-track has so far been uploaded – a beautifully fragmented and fragile song – as always lead by Tim Rutili’s stunning voice and masterful lyrics. The album was written and recorded across Southern California, Arizona and Texas and is available on 3 September.


Hiss Golden Messenger “Haw” (Paradise of Bachelors)
‘Haw’ is one of the year’s finest albums and another milestone release in Hiss Golden Messenger’s stellar discography to date. As always, the songwriting by M.C. Taylor (encompassing songs of both struggle and pain as well as songs of joy and hope) is to the forefront while songs effortlessly fuse traditions of folk, blues, soul and gospel. Follow-up to the equally sublime “Poor Moon”, “Haw” is HGM’s fourth album.


Colin Stetson “New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light” (Constellation)
Part three in the “New History Warfare” series, gifted composer Colin Stetson is fast-becoming independent music’s crowning jewel. Long-known and admired for his astonishing array of collaborative work (Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, TV on the Radio to name only a few), Stetson’s reputation as a solo composer has quickly earned himself the reputation for one of contemporary music’s true leading artists.


Laurie Spiegel “The Expanding Universe” (Unseen Worlds / Philo)
While we had the great honour of co-presenting Thrill Jockey’s Mountains for their concert in Cork, one of our highlights was listening to Koen Holtkamp talk so fondly about Spiegel’s seminal masterwork “The Expanding Universe”. It’s hard to imagine these recordings were made in 1980 as they sound as fresh and as innovative today. The lovingly expanded reissue from last year is a work of true beauty and confirms “The Expanding Universe” as one of the finest (and most influential) records ever made.


Julianna Barwick “Nepenthe” (Dead Oceans)
The wait is finally nearly over for Julianna Barwick’s follow-up to her much-celebrated “The Magic Place”, released in 2011 on Asthmatic Kitty. So far, “Pacing” (released as a limited edition 7″) and “One Half” have been made available, whetting the appetite for what will surely be one of the year’s most defining albums. Whereas Barwick’s “The Magic Place” was recorded in her Brooklyn bedroom studio, “Nepenthe” was recorded in Iceland with Alex Somers (Sigur Rós, Jónsi). “One Half” is arguably Barwick’s most beautiful work yet. LP available 20 August.


Chosen One: Dan Deacon

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‘America’, the new album from Baltimore’s Dan Deacon, is undeniably one of the best albums of 2012. The Baltimore one-man-orchestra has created his strongest body of work to date, surpassing his previous output.

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

‘America’ is a change in direction for Deacon. Where once relying so heavily on creating primarily synthetic music, ‘America’ finds Deacon using both acoustic and synthetic, in turn creating Deacon’s first rock record. In the words of Dan Deacon, the inspiration of ‘America’ comes from his “love of cross-country travel, seeing the landscapes of the United States, going from East to West and back again over the course of seasons”. The lyrics are inspired by his strong feelings towards his country: “The lyrics are inspired by my frustration, fear and anger towards the country and world I live in and am part of”. ‘America’ isn’t a political record. It’s in fact an album embedded in emotion and its expansive beauty is one to behold. The album  is split into two parts, that is more apparent when listening to ‘America’ on vinyl. Part A comprises of pop songs, where prog, punk, electronica, classical and pop effortlessly fuse together. Part B is a cinematic twenty-one minute piece entitled ‘USA’, broken into four parts. The result is an album of undeniable genius from a prolific artist at the height of his powers.

The instrumental ‘Guilford Avenue Bridge’ opens ‘America’ with its pulsing electronics and beats. A gorgeous layer of guitar slowly appears adding ambient touchstones. The piece acts as the album’s prologue, showcasing Deacon’s anger towards America. Next up is the electronic pop gem, ‘True Thrush’. This song is as good as The Flaming Lips circa ‘The Soft Bulletin’. Lush production and intricate arrangements and layers of backing harmonies creates an irresistible pop symphony of sound. Deacon sings, ‘Please sing me a song/Sing of days gone by/Before I went wrong’ on the song’s verse. An openness and fear can be felt throughout, ‘Hey there old soul/I’m lost and alone/No head to hold high/But my feet keep on going/Spread those wings wide.” The song closes with a delicate woodwind and brass sound. The third track ‘Lots’ is a punk rock opus. ‘Lots’ serves as ‘America”s anthem. The infectious quality and its sheer ferocity is akin to ‘Raw Power’ era The Stooges. Deacon roars with emotion, ‘Regret/No past/No sense/Brave days/Ahead/None rest/None yet/One choice to make/Get ready to go.’ ‘Prettyboy’ changes the dynamic and mood. ‘Prettyboy’ is an odyssey of dreams and heavenly bliss. Gorgeously orchestrated strings, woodwind and brass are woven beneath melodic piano and guiding drum beats. The ambient soundscape thus created is akin to Neu! such is the track’s euphoric depth. This is the perfect soundtrack to ‘Moon’ or ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’. Sublime soundtrack music. ‘Crash Jam’ is a charged psych pop jam in the vein of John Maus or Grandaddy. Deacon sings a love song beneath the swirling bass and electronics, ‘Melt down beside me/I melt beside you/Always I melt with you’. ‘Crash Jam’ is the perfect climax to Part A of ‘America’ with a psychedelic finale a la E.L.O at their best. Interestingly, the best of the album comes in Part B, flip over the vinyl!

‘America’ is divided into four parts: i Is A Monster, ii The Great American Desert, iii Rail and iv Manifest. The first part ‘Is A Monster’ is the centrepiece to ‘America’. The song has got it all. Film score strings and breathtaking woodwind, brass makes up the epic intro. The arrangement is divine. The piece reminds me of the main theme to ‘Man on Wire’ and transports me to Philippe Petit’s high wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Centre. The music score is similar to the wonderful Michael Nyman score that created the perfect backdrop to Petit’s awe inspiring journey. Two minutes into ‘Is A Monster’, synths, electronics and drums explode over hypnotic pulses of synthetic rhythms. Deacon sings a mantra, ‘Nothing lives long/Only the earth and the mountains/Feel like I’m all flesh and no bone/I’m not the shapes that I’m shown’ adding darkness to the light of hope. ‘The dark part of dreams’ are explored on the following ‘The Great American Desert’ with heavy reverb and glorious pulses of sound, ‘I see hillsides/Burning in flames/Everything’s gray/Nothing remains of/Places I Loved.’ The outro consists of a plethora of percussion and woodwind (bassoon, clarinets) creating Steve Reichesque rhythmic pulses. This perfectly leads the way into ”Rail’, a beautiful piece of music that encapsulates Deacon’s journey across America from east to west, and back again over the seasons. The instrumentation of violin, viola, cellos, clarinet, bassoon, flute, french horn and trumpet distills a haven of classical music that is a feast for the senses. Think Sufjan Stevens combined with Nico Muhly and you’re halfway there. Drums arrive five minutes later,resulting in a joyous symphony to serve as a fitting finale. ‘Manifest’ is the final of the four pieces and closes the ‘USA’ piece and the album. ‘Manifest’ acts as the sister to ‘Is A Monster’ where the first piece is revisited. The euphoria flows out from the music. ‘The times are racing/Now I’m just glad I spent them with you’ is my favourite lyric from Deacon. The song ends in a crescendo of otherworldly noise amidst film score strings. It’s the climax to a very ambitious and rewarding album that fulfills Dan Deacon’s promise, and of more to come.

‘America’ is out now on Domino.

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October 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm

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Chosen One: Dirty Projectors

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Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

Dirty Projectors is the musical vision of David Longstreth whose band returns this year with their highly anticipated sixth studio album, ‘Swing Lo Magellan’. Like fellow Brooklyn residents, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective, Longstreth and co. make utterly compelling experimental indie pop for the 21st Century. Multi-instrumentalist, arranger and songwriter, David Longstreth has come to be the 21st century David Byrne for new wave music songcraft.

Over the past decade, his rolling cast of musicians of Dirty Projectors have made utterly unique artistic creations. Longstreth and co. remaked Black Flag’s ‘Damaged’ album from memory on 2007’s ‘Rise Above, created a song cycle based on The Eagle’s Don Henley on 2005’s ‘The Getty Address’ and created an emblem of the live band on 2009’s masterpiece ‘Bitte Orca’. More recently, they have collaborated with Bjork on the ‘Mount Wittenburg Orca’ ep and worked with David Byrne on the charity ‘Dark Was The Night’ compilation produced by Red Hot Organization. Importantly, Dirty Projectors in 2012 find themselves as a solid five-piece unit with the partnership of Longstreth and Coffman as the bright spark. The vehicle for Longstreth’s songwriting is namely, Amber Coffman (vocals and guitar), Mike Johnson (drums), Nat Baldwin (bass) and Haley Dekle (vocals).

On the making of Dirty Projectors’ ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ the band spent twelve months in the seclusion of Delaware, County outside New York, where a separate headspace existed which provided another mindset for Longstreth. This solitude and calm of place is very evident throughout the album. On the band’s latest release, a directness and emotional clarity exists where Longstreth has moved away from abstraction and in turn, has written very personal songs. ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ is a sublime folk pop tour de force with a country feel. The album’s playfulness and directness strikes similarities to ‘John Wesley Harding’ era Bob Dylan. David Longstreth has said ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ is ‘more about the songs’ and what a set of awe-inspiring songs they are.

‘Impregnable Question’ is an achingly beautiful love song with delicate piano, bass and drums. ‘In happiness and in strife/You are my love and I want you in my life’ Longstreth sings over a gorgeous piano and backing harmony. The ballad belongs on either Beatles masterpiece ‘Sgt Pepper’ or ‘Revolver’ such is the song’s greatness. ‘Dance For You’ is pop music at its sensational best, reminiscent of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ golden creation. A soulful electric guitar is played over mesmerizing percussion and drums before an orchestra swirls beautifully in the bridge and chorus. ‘There is an answer/I haven’t found it/But I will keep dancing ’till I do’ Longstreth sings on the song’s chorus over a film score of strings is the album’s finest moment.

‘About To Die’ is an irresistible pop gem with futuristic electronic sounds and looped violins echoing Owen Pallett. The first single ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ is R&B influenced with pristine production with Longstreth’s glorious falsetto on the chorus. The title-track is ‘Harvest’ era Neil Young; a glorious folk pop gem with an immediacy and directness that hits you to the core. The last verse is sheer poetry, ‘I saw my frame in a pool of light/All drowned in doubt and shame/I knew that I had lost my sight’. ‘See What She Seeing’ is a beautiful song of longing with drum machines, electronic tweakings, strings and Coffman’s backing vocals providing the perfect musical backdrop, ‘Every time I think I’ve found her/Just what I’ve found is unclear’. Amber Coffman takes centre stage on ‘The Socialites’ which is a crystalized pop creation recalling the band’s previous collaborative work with Bjork.

The album closer ‘Irresponsible Tune’ is at the intersection of Grizzly Bear and The Beatles which could either be taken from ‘Yellow House’ or ‘Revolver’. The album’s final words ‘There’s a bird singing at my window, an irresponsible tune’ paints a landscape of beauty, simplicity and directness. ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ is just that.
‘Swing Lo Magellan’ is out now on Domino.

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August 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm

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