“World” - Julia Holter
Following up the release of 2011 and 2012’s critically acclaimed gems Tragedy and Ekstasis, Julia Holter will continue her ascent into greater artistic expression, wider critical acclaim, and lesser anonymity with Loud City Song. The nine song LP - her “first studio album proper,” according to her record label and recent Tragedy rereleaser Domino - is a… well, here:
Holter taking inspiration from Collette’s 1944 novella Gigi and using it as a prism through which to explore her relationship with her hometown of Los Angeles and modern life universally, taking cues from the work of Joni Mitchell and the poetry of Frank O’Hara but forging those touch-points into something resolutely unique.
Yes, that. Not quite an ode to or meditation on the City of Angels, but rather something more intensely personal and widely, uniquely relatable, or some such thing.
There are many reasons to be excited for the record, only one of which is Holter’s penchant for unique, intricately woven conceptual ideas in each of her albums (each of which is, as she’s said before, it’s own separate project). Holter has shown compositional talent that is impressive in its layering, nuance, and rich emotional depth, as well as having a robust, spectrum-spanning music sandbox that she plays around in.
One need only look so far as Loud City Song’s first single, “World,” for evidence of these traits. Whereas Tragedy was otherworldly, esoteric art-pop and Ekstasis a more consinent and melodious layering of warmer elements (and her older material another brand of lofi pop still), Loud City Song’s first single is already a fairly significant departure into a still, quiet vacuum.
Five minutes oh-so-patient progression, the song is slow, solemn, gorgeous example of the emotional heft that can be conveyed through restraint. “World” is fit to burst from the amount of it here; it feels as if the dams are splitting from the sheer weight of it.
That “first studio album proper” factoid can be felt in the song’s many quiet moments. The notion that leaving behind the home recording can only be for the better is a silly one, but it is exciting when thinking of what someone as talented with nuance as Holter could create with some new, expensive toys. The quality and purity of the quiet here alone is sublime.
We haven’t even touched on the Rick Bahto-filmed Super 8 footage, but we’ll leave that for you eyes. Loud City Song, co-produced with Cole Marsden Grief-Neill, is due out on August 20th in the US and August 19th everywhere else. Julia Holter will also be touring throughout July and August, bringing her rapturous live shows around once more [link].
- Tyler Hanan
Read the rest of our end of the year coverage:
- Favorite Albums of 2012: Eric Kossina [link]
- Favorite Albums of 2012: Kevin Tappin [link]
- Favorite Albums of 2012: Will McGee [link]
- Favorite Albums of 2012: Kyle Minton [link]
Here it is, though, as incomplete as any other. A year from now, I won’t have listened to a few of these, and a few other albums not mentioned here will become favorites, as is the way of these things. I was pained to leave off such albums as Laurel Halo’s Quarantine and Jens Lekman’s I Know What Love Isn’t, pleased to omit Grizzly Bear’s Shields, and disappointed at the lack of spins I gave to Sun Kil Moon’s Among the Leaves, How To Dress Well’s Total Loss, all of Ty Segall’s seventeen releases, and countless other albums I6’ve already forgotten about. Again.
The numbering here is largely irrelevant - a tiered format is a more accurate structure for how I rate albums, with the parsing out of the placement being more of an annoyance than anything. It hurts me, looking at this list as I realize how much I have missed. The heavier hardcore/skramz part of my taste has been underfed this year, as a Loma Prieta or Beau Navire didn’t even make the cut (and I never even listened to A Lot Like Birds). Rap and hip are sorely represented, with Ab-Soul and even Killer Mike not making the cut. Some of my favorite labels, such as Topshelf and Count Your Lucky Stars, even got pushed much further out of my life as I care to admit.
It’s a testament to how much great music is being made out there - for someone as time-strapped and multiple-interest-laden as me (boo hoo, first world problems, etc), it’s hard to keep up with it all. Here’s to listening to more music than ever; covering more music, and doing so better; and becoming more well-rounded people in the industry, creator, and fan realms all in this new year - I’ve never felt better on a New Year’s Day. Thank you to all of you, those old readers and new, both the followers and the casual Google-took-me-here…ers - we certainly do much of this for us, but we also do it in the hopes that you will benefit too.
Cat Power - “Ruin”
Chairlift - “I Belong in Your Arms”
Death Grips - “I’ve Seen Footage”
Fiona Apple - “Werewolf”
Icona Pop - “I Love It“ (ft. Charlie XCX)
Menomena - “Skintercourse”
M.I.A. - “Bad Girls”
Mount Eerie - “House Shape”
Pinback - “Proceed to Memory”
Twin Shadow - “Five Seconds”
Burial - Kindred
Dum Dum Girls - End of Daze EP
Icona Pop - The Iconic EP
Ricky Eat Acid & Arrange - Sketches
Yohuna - Revery
Honorable Mentions: Shlohmo - Vacation; Elvis Depressedly - Glamour Kills; Prawn - Ships; TNGHT - TNGHT; Daniel Rossen - Silent Hour/Golden Mile
20. Joie De Vivre - We’re All Better Than This
Ah, Joie De Vivre - once dead, now, so soon, alive again. It’s one of numerous great Count Your Lucky Stars releases (including quality new albums from Annabel, Innards, and others) but one of the few I made extensive time for. It’s full of all the midwestern emo goodness one could hope for from one of the better bands (of the many great bands, make no mistake) doing it, all the more welcome for the fact that we once thought another Joie De Vivre album wouldn’t happen. Let’s all add on a poorly improvised, “and many mooore” to the end of this.
“Gold Dust Woman” (Fleetwood Mac cover) - Julia Holter
It’s the post you all knew was coming. Julia Holter has shared her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” an earnest and throbbing, yet mightily haunting cover. It’s from Rumours Revisited, Mojo’s Rumours cover album that also contains covers from such indie luminaries as Yeasayer and Liars. Enjoy [link]
- Tyler Hanan
“Fast Chariot and Wounded Footsoldier” - Julia Holter
Hello all, I’m dropping in with a brief post on this busy day as I near completion on a few longer pieces. Julia Holter earlier released this recording from late last year. It’s an intriguing piece, and shows yet again her fascination with many things experimental, ancient and Greek. (Is that piece in the art Greek? Maybe? Please be Greek? I really should have brushed up on this more before posting.)
Regardless, it’s a rather sparse recording, more in the vein of Tragedy, unsurprisingly. It also provides me with something brand new to post today, as well as an excuse to again express my excitement for the material Holter has been arranging recently and for her cover of “Gold Dust Woman” off an upcoming Fleetwood Mac cover cd. There’s also her 12” single, soon to be released via Domino [link], which I would not mind receiving as a Christmas gift…
Lastly, it’s that end of the year list time - will Ekstasis be cracking your top 2012 albums?
- Tyler Hanan
My favorite holiday is almost gone, but I’ll refuse to let it go for another few days still. Music is just as big a Halloween event for me as decorations and haunted houses; plus, I actually have the time and funds to indulge it. Epic post rock (Godspeed You!, Mogwai), drawn-out, creepy electronic and drone (Oneohtrix Point Never and Tim Hecker) and the queerer realms of ambient pop (Julia Holter, whose Halloween-ready Tragedy is sadly not on Spotify) - these are the things that pique my interest even more than normal this time of year. So enjoy your Halloween, folks. I wasn’t able to embrace it as much as I would’ve liked, but we’ll take what we can. Pick out some of your favorite soundtracks and blast those through the house, double-check your beds and closets, and for the love of John Carpenter, do not go outside to investigate that sound. I’ll be watching Trick ‘r Treat and Halloween if you need me. [link]
- Oneohtrix Point Never - “Andro”
- Crystal Castles - “Year of Silence”
- Soft Moon - “Into the Depths”
- Mogwai - “Batcat”
- Young Widows - “Miss Tambourine Wrist”
- Tim Hecker - “Borderlands”
- Zomby - “Haunted”
- Julia Holter - “Goddess Eyes I”
- Zola Jesus - “Avalanche”
- Explosions in the Sky - “Greet Death”
- Mount Eerie - “House Shape”
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor - “East Hastings
“What We See” - Julia Holter + Nite Jewel
Nothing Sounds Better in a nutshell: “Julia Holter or Phil Elverum did a thing. The world must know.”
One need only follow Julia Holter and Nite Jewel on twitter to know of that friendship, and any fan of the two would recognize both the compatibility of the music they make, as well as the enormous potential of such a collaboration.
My oh my, is a good chunk of that potential reached here. The music here is absolutely stunning, with a softly stuttering beat sparsely decorated with lovely, exceedingly delicate piano and a subtle synth. It’s dreamy, ephemeral, infatuating excellence in soft ambient pop. The pair’s voices highlight this short bit of mastery - noticeably different, but harmonizing and weaving together seamlessly to give the track a most wondrous voice.
The video from Delaney Bishop and Jose Wolff (a name familiar to those fans of the most recent Julia Holter video) is simple and unsurprising in concept, but most beautiful in execution. Full of warm colors and a tastefully-applied oscillation between blur and clarity, the simple visuals of nature and the two women walking become quite pleasant watching, and meshes as well with the music as well as the different parts do within the music. More, please.
- Tyler Hanan
“Goddess Eyes I” - Julia Holter
Julia Holter has released yet another video for one of her songs (premiered on Gorilla Vs. Bear), this time for the beautiful, somewhat sorrowful “Goddess Eyes I” (versions of which appear both on Tragedy and this year’s sensational album of the year candidate Ekstasis). Playing with light and darkness in blurry visuals and bleak landscapes lacking color, director Jose Wolff creates yet another intriguing entry into the Holter video catalog. Regarding the song, Wolff said:
“The first thing that came to mind was an image that gradually deteriorates with visual noise, echoing the sonic noise present in the song. We go from lightness to darkness, away from a structured, fabricated place and into raw territory.”
- Tyler Hanan
“Our Sorrows” - Julia Holter
Julia Holter has released yet another video (featuring herself, as always), this time for the track “Our Sorrows” off of album of the year candidate Ekstasis (out on RVNG Intl.). Naomi Yang (Galaxie 500, Damon & Naomi) directs. The video is quite lovely and aesthetically pleasing, its color choices being quite striking and poignant (along with the probability that they have a deeper meaning, though I won’t go into such discussion here). Even without delving into the deeper meaning, the video is quite the visual treat - especially when accompanied by the dreamy “Our Sorrows.”
In related news, Julia Holter’s tour schedule has been extended. Following the summer European tour, she’ll be spending August and September crossing America (including a date in my own state - I’m working quite hard here to contain my emotions); on a few of those West Coast dates, she will be opening up for Sigur Rós. Her star continues to rise, and we couldn’t be happier.
- Tyler Hanan
“Moni Mon Amie” - Julia Holter
Is there a point to putting my name at the bottom of this post? Another day, another Julia Holter video, another gushing post on Nothing Sounds Better from a certain Holter superfan. The new, official video for “Moni Mon Amie” (which seems to be getting a good amount of love, and rightfully so - also check out the lovely live video [link]) is out, and each video seems to look better than the last. Yelena Zhelezov directs, and Julia Holter herself, as usual, stars. Also, her latest release Ekstasis is my favorite album of the short year thus far - if you haven’t listened, you are missing out on an absolutely beautiful experience.
- Tyler Hanan
“In the Same Room” - Julia Holter
If you follow us regularly, you will already know several times over of Julia Holter’s Ekstasis, slated for a March 8th release on RVNG Intl. I’ve written about this track a bit already, but I’ll take a moment to express once more how beautiful this song is. It’s also my favorite video from Holter so far, and I would like to take a second to credit director/photographer Hilary Walsh for this lovely visual daydream, and also for the short, informative description she included on the YouTube page. Please, take a few minutes to enjoy it.
- Tyler Hanan