Have You In My Wilderness – Julia Holter


I don’t know if I’ve ever heard such a beautiful opening track to an album.

‘Feel You’ is the opening song that has me so enraptured. An ethereal voice glides off the plucky harpsichord while the strings take a few deep breaths. At 13 seconds the drums and bass enter which sets the real precedent to what you are about to hear.

Admittedly I had not heard of Julia Holter before and volunteered for this review as I thought it’d be interesting. Also my Editor had recommended her to me. I even forgot that I’d volunteered until I heard ‘Feel You’ on BBC 6 Music and thought to myself “that was beautiful; that name rings a bell?” and with minutes (literally) I received word that the album would be with me that day. Serendipitous or what?

So I already knew that this was going to a positive experience but that did not prepare me for just how much I am loving this album. There is a real sense of love and enjoyment that has gone into making this record. It flows along with such a natural sense of rhythm, nothing flash but just to the left of what you expect. The sounds layered up feature harpsichords, double bass, synths and even a crazy delay-panned saxophone, which never appear to be thrown together in a quirky or transgressive way in an attempt to be ‘new’. Everything about this album is just what it needs to be.

‘Silhouette’, ‘Everytime Boots’ and ‘Sea Calls Me Home’ all highlight the fun and carefree approach that I mentioned earlier, with upbeat rhythms, surprising arrangements and Julia’s voice, which seems effortless. ‘Lucette Stranded on the Island’, ‘Betsy on the Roof’ and ‘Vasquez’ all take the listener on a journey through some amazing soundscapes. She explores the possibilities of sounds and arrangement, with soaring dynamics and twinkling pianos and percussion. ‘How Long?’ and ‘Night Song’ add a darker slower side to this album that really helps carve some shape into the album as a whole.

Lyrically Julia is very good at giving a lot of detail, using beautiful sensory language that allows you to feel what is happening. It makes for such a strong experience to be drawn into her stories instead of the typical instructional or statement based lyrics of most commercial songs. She deals with common issues to everyday life based on human relationships but approaches these through eloquent storytelling; ‘Lucette Stranded on the Island’ is apparently about a woman who is robbed by her lover and left on a Balearic island (according to her recent interview with NRP.org)

If you’re alone in the dark and want to be moved, this is the album.

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