- It's hard to believe the Julia Holter of 2015 also created the billowy, deconstructed pop of 2011's Tragedy. The ephemeral ambience and experiments with song and sound that formed its backdrop, as well as that of 2012's Ekstasis, have been cleaned up for her two albums on Domino Records. Loud City Song found Holter moving closer to the foreground, both in her singing and her approach to arrangement and production. Roughly guided by both the original novella and the later musical and film, Gigi, Holter now centers songs around social observations and a flaneur's ever-watchful gaze. Furthermore, she works with a kind of chamber pop influenced by Laurel Canyon figures like Joni Mitchell and Nico.
On Have You in My Wilderness, the first notable change is just how much clutter has been removed from around Holter's singing. Her voice is pushed toward the center of the mix, holding the lush orchestration firmly in place. As always, you catch bits of poésie, fractured storytelling intended to be pieced together over hours of listening. Perhaps for the first time, however, Holter strikes the nexus between complex lyrical musings and approachable, timeless songwriting.
If the lyrics are still cloaked in foggy memories, they're bolstered by Holter's most indelible melodies to date. "Sea Calls Me Home," with its whistled interludes, calm piano strides and saxophone solo, almost resembles a Broadway hit lost to time. "Lucette Stranded On The Island" is quiet and more contemplative—its distant bells give way to a soaring orchestral lament. "How Long?" features another stirring vocal performance, as Holter leads mournful strings into a dark cabaret spell. She isn't afraid to experiment with this sound, too. The playful drums and trilling strings of "Everytime Boots" evoke Laurie Anderson's art-pop, and "Vasquez" sounds like fragments of a dream muttered over Rhodes and jazzy drums.
On the closing title track, Holter delivers what might be her most affecting performance to date. Multi-tracked to achieve a kind of choral grace, her voice glides out in front of strings and dim synths, singing vague lines about loss and its complexities. It's a stark and gorgeous elegy, and a highlight on a record that's full of them. Even if Have You In My Wilderness is Holter's most accessible record to date, it's riddled with enough puzzles, lyrical twists and delicate refinement to remain intriguing listen after listen.
01. Feel You
03. How Long?
04. Lucette Stranded On The Island
05. Sea Calls Me Home
06. Night Song
07. Everytime Boots
08. Betsy On The Roof
10. Have You In My Wilderness