Following up on Ekstasis in 2012 and Loud City Song in 2013, Julia Holter has recently returned with her fourth studio album, Have You In My Wilderness, and there’s more art pop intricacies to take in. While there’s a lot to like about the record, which is filled with great vocals, a complex musical canvas and significant pop proficiency, it doesn’t manage to hold sway right the way to the end.
Released on CD, digital download and vinyl, the album is a mix of classic female vocal pop that has minor comparisons with The Carpenters, experimental baroque pop with the occasional similarities to Kate Bush and out-and-out avant garde. It doesn’t all sit well, with moments of abstract distraction and translucent meanders, but when it does work it makes for some of the year’s best art pop tracks.
Highlights include opening song, Feel You, which coasts on mellow waves of acoustic guitar, military off-beat drums and pristine pop vocals from Holter. The lilting violin notes add an extra level of depth to the track, which changes pace and expanse on a number of occasions resulting the kind of song that will stand out when it crops up on shuffle for years to come. You can listen to the track for yourself in the music video stream below.
It’s followed up by the playful delights of Silhouette, which taps into vague traces of Kate Bush and Karen Carpenter all in the same track. Again the interplay of violin melodies are a big part of what makes the song work as well as it does and they’re added to by some clever synth notes.
The slow, somber, bluesy direction on How Long? works well and the abstraction of Lucette Stranded On The Island is theatrical and stylish, if a little downcast. We love the whistling and saxamaphone madness on Sea Calls Me Home, but Night Song is just a bit too sparse to make much of an impact. It marks the first of the tracks on the album that lacks the sheer fascination of the first half of Have You In My Wilderness.
The good news is that it gets a reprieve in Everytime Boots, which dances in like its the beating heart of a Kate Bush’s psychedelic ballet shoes. Betsy On The Roof is too morose and overblown to follow on from the light of the previous track and Vasquez is all abstract chic avant-garde jazz fusion, which you’re either going to love or lament. It closes on the title track and while it’s got some strong, flooding violin notes it’s adrift in its own empty sea of emptiness and while that fits with the themes of the album it doesn’t make it easily appreciated.
Have You In My Wilderness is a delight for the most part with a few tracks that just don’t work as well in the mix from our point of view. However, it’s a very subjective take and it doesn’t take anything away from the absolute quality and dedication that has come together on Julia Holter’s impressive 4th album.
Julia Holter, Have You In My Wilderness review: 3.9/5