Loud City Song
Aug 21, 2013 Web Exclusive
Loud City Song is that rare, refreshing, and inspiring album that simply aspires to be a world unto itself. Pulling equally from modern classical, Tin Pan Alley musicals, musique concrète, and what can only be described as avant-pop as descendant from forebears such as Kate Bush and David Bowie, the album resists and even violently squirms away from attempts at categorization. While at first blush it would seem that "avant-pop" is an effective catch-all, the truth is very little of Loud City Song veers in that direction. "Horns Surrounding," perhaps the hookiest song of the collection, lays reasonable claim to membership in that genre but even that song's straightforward beat is thick with complex intentions, cultivating an aesthetic of production as compositional tool through its psychotic detuned chorus and its unique emphasis on intense cymbal impact.
Most of the rest of the record, however, is a drifting affair, each track much better likened to a movement in a symphony than a song on a modern rock album. Indeed, Holter's compositional lexicon asserts itself clearly from the get-go with the quiet sprawl of "World," an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink chronicle of her record's lexicon that somehow manages to be hushed and unassuming. The orchestration of brass is especially noteworthy on this record, never failing to be creative and thoughtfully rendered as opposed to a decorative afterthought.
Her true forebear may in fact be Van Dyke Parks, whose Song Cycle sought to meld an idiosyncratic approach to orchestration with the aesthetic of the singer/songwriter. It's a tough row to hoe, but Holter obviously doesn't mind the challenge. This is music that takes a while to comprehend, designed for longevity over quick appeal. For those of you wistful for this approach, look no further. (www.juliashammasholter.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10