In the past two years, Los Angeles artist Julia Holter has released three albums. The first two, Tragedy and Ekstasis contained nods to ancient Greek plays and Virginia Woolf. Her newly released third, and first for Domino Records, was influenced by the novella and movie Gigi. Lowbrow this is not.
Loud City Song is the first of her albums to be recorded in a studio with other musicians and features a definite jazz flavour on many of the tracks. The first notes heard on single “In the Green Wild” are of a double bass one would normally hear pouring out of a jazz café. A breathless cover of 60s R&B staple “Hello Stranger” shows what a beautiful singer Holter is and does not sound too dissimilar from a slow motion version of Lisa Stansfield. Towards the end of the album, there is a Feist like bounce on “This Is a True Heart”.
2012’s Ekstasis’ dream pop was perfect for falling asleep to but Loud City Song comes alive while walking through the city on a bright and sunny afternoon. The appropriately named “Horns Surround Me” is enhanced by the rustling of fall leaves under feet, the sound of cars rushing by, and birds singing. On Loud City Song, Holter has truly captured the sound of the urban environment and is a vibrant follow-up to her first two excellent albums.
Review also found at UMFM.com
Back in the spring of this year, Julia Holter quickly released the follow up to her debut from 2011 entitled Tragedy which was inspired by Euripides’ Greek play Hippolytus. Taking time away from tutoring teenagers in her native Los Angeles, Holter recorded Ekstasis mostly at home and mostly on her own. At times recalling Kate Bush and more recent artists such as Grimes, Ekstasis sounds like it’s from another time both past and future.
Like walking through an old abandoned home with secret passages and hidden rooms behind bookcases, there is much to discover here. First track, “Marienbad” is a marvel in itself. At times feeling like it could all fall apart at any time; beats, strings, and a distorted bugle appear and disappear throughout. The dreamlike vocals of “Our Sorrows” with its “if you call out, call out, call out, call out I will follow you” refrain is then followed by swirling vocals that make it feel like you’re listening to someone drown. “In the Same Room” features an insistent drumbeat and handclaps, the lyrics being a back and forth between two people before it all starts to fade away as quickly as it came.
The challenging aspects of Holter’s work is balanced by featuring just as many melodic and catchy moments throughout. Not a conventional listen and quite abstract at times, Ekstasis is an album to get lost in.
(Review also found at UMFM.com)