Julia Holter – Loud City Song

written by: August 29, 2013
Release Date: August 20, 2013


In the world of vocalists, there are jukeboxes and there are composers.

Julia Holter‘s vocals are the centerpiece in her music, though as a multi-instrumentalist, she is able to guide the music through her world of melodies and noises by playing most of it herself. Each world of Holter’s is potent and idiosyncratic, which leaves no real certain sound to her music, only a patchwork of feelings.

Loud City Song, Holter’s third LP, begins on a quiet note with “World.” A minimalist swirl of Holter’s somber voice walks amidst orchestral swells, harpsichord plucks, and soft vocal backings. Each section is a minimalist swirl, which slowly deteriorates into silence.

The final silence of “World” is broken by the shimmering cymbals of “Maxim I.” Distant sounding music bubbles up from those glittering cymbals and Holter’s beautiful voice is framed on either side by soft violin sections.

Julia Holter’s music is calm and collected. Every little sound is gracefully choreographed around the vocal imaginings of her mind. Each decision in the movement of the music is eloquent and pointed.

Loud City Song is an anthem of texture, and it’s not just Holter’s voice that creates this. Enveloped within each song are samples and little bits of noise that accent turns and passages. Crinkles of paper and muddied footsteps lead into soft electronic tones, and Holter whispers inaudibly on “Horns Surrounding Me.” From these sounds arises a brass section, which crackles like it’s being played through a Dictaphone. The synth-poppish chorus also has jazzy textures when dissonant notes are sung and then smoothly resolved.

Those jazz leanings appear often on Loud City Song. The track “In the Green Wild” primarily features the raw plucking of a stand-up bass. Her voice is halfway between spoken word and sultry jazz singing, and explains a tree’s confusion at the sound of a woman’s voice.

These ethereal songs have such life to them that they could almost be played out in some futuristic, avante-garde theatre piece.

The scenes would tell of the disillusion of triumph in “Maxims II,” where horns build into cacophony and two chaotic saxophones shout in some musical argument. The slow trickling out of phrases on a piano would tell of the wandering mind of a lover on the song “He’s Running Through My Eyes.” This lost lover comes back to center in the following song, “This Is a True Heart,” where lounge music plays over Holter’s musing, all while jazz flutes, violins, and saxophones dance playfully around.

Loud City Song is a sensual and diverse swath of thoughtful music and concise textures. It’s a beautiful record, and almost anyone can find something relatable within it. Beyond this, it is still musicians’ music, and a close ear will reveal a series of perfect decisions and a subtle approach that gives Julia Holter’s music a higher dimension.

Julia Holter – Loud City Song tracklist:

  1. “World”
  2. “Maxims I”
  3. “Horns Surrounding Me”
  4. “In the Green Wild”
  5. “Hello Stranger”
  6. “Maxims II”
  7. “He’s Running Through My Eyes”
  8. “This Is a True Heart”
  9. “City Appearing”