Julia Holter - Loud City Song
High concept ideas and mesmeric, beautifully-arranged classical pop
LA chamber-pop diviner Julia Holter has long reflected urban landscape, society and architecture in her music, so Loud City Song is a particularly resonant, fitting title for her third LP (and first on Domino). Loud City Song sees Californian sound artist Holter refine and advance her singular knack for filtering high concept and avant garde ideas through mesmeric, beautifully arranged classic(al) pop – from spectral, universal opener ‘World’ (‘all the cities of the world’), through jazz-imbibed, gorgeous lead single ‘In The Green Wild’, to the brassy claustrophobia of ‘Horns Surrounding Me’, a song agitated by experimental pulsing-pop that evokes Kate Bush or even a dream-sequence Pat Benatar.
As with her second album, Ekstasis – whose stunning salutation, ‘Marienbad’ drew inspiration from a 1961 French New Wave film (Last Year At Marienbad) – Loud City Song is a suite of independent yet allied vignettes informed by vintage celluloid, in this case American romantic musical Gigi (1958). This source is underscored by the album’s two-chambered heart, ‘Maxim’s I’ and ‘Maxim’s II’ – a nod to the Paris café of the same name that features in the movie. Recent single ‘Maxim’s I’ is particularly joyous, with its epic-synth echoes of Godley and Creme or Jon and Vangelis. These coupled titles progress Holter’s penchant for connecting, referencing and evolving her works, as first evinced on ‘Goddess Eyes’, which featured on her 2011 debut, Tragedy, then reappeared in myriad forms (‘Goddess Eyes I’ / ‘Goddess Eyes II’) on its follow-up, Ekstasis – and reinforce her notion of creating ‘separate songs, and songs of songs’. Despite these motifs of connection, and society, and urban life, there’s another theme that echoes throughout Holter’s work, and particularly throughout Loud City Song – and it is that of being alone. The sublime, searching reverie of ‘Hello Stranger’ reminds us of this alienation; reminds us that even amid the biggest buildings in the busiest cities, silence, and loneliness, can be deafening.