Are people being unintentionally quiet about this album or is everyone’s jaw still on the fucking floor? This is 2018’s version of Smile. Somehow, Julia combines Brian Wilson’s extravagant ideas with Van Dyke Parks’s ability to organize them. Straight up? I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to this motherfucker. It’s not an easy album. At 90 minutes long, this shit is thicker than frozen mud. If you’re looking that catchy tune to play on your way to work, this is the wrong fucking place. This kind of music requires time to digest. It’s shit you sit down to. You don’t cram this into your face hole with one hand while signalling through douchebag traffic with the other. This is something that is consumed slowly. You take this motherfucker out on a proper date. That candlelight dinner shit. The instrumentation on this alone deserves the respect. There are choirs, bells, brass, bands, harps, accordions, chants, bagpipe solos, electronics, yodelling, synths, and Julia screaming out into the night sky in that same vocal crack as Björk. Her stage? The universe. And she fills the goddamn space like a hand in a leather glove.
This album begins where most albums end, with a cacophonous instrumentation crash. It continues on from there. Many of the ideas on this motherfucker go right over your head at first. Some of them are even painful to listen to at first (like the 4 min dissonant bagpipe solo at the start of “Everyday Is an Emergency”). I screamed at my speakers, “Fucking, come on already!” as it continued to play. But there’s a reason for everything on this album. Like appreciating silence after spending time in a loud and crowded space, each sound prepares the way for the next.
Every time I thought I had a hold of this motherfucker, it switched gears. Song 4 “Voce Simul” comes along sounding slightly of Miles Davis. “Another Dream” sounds like the Blade Runner soundtrack but ends with noise rock. I swear to God “I Shall Love 2” is what happens when The Polyphonic Spree finally admits they’re a suicide sex cult. Then “In Gardens’ Muteness” is minimalist dream pop. Yet, despite the many different styles and genres in this album, nothing feels disjointed or out of place. There are more fucking ideas on one song off this album than there are in some musicians discographies. This album encapsulates the disorientating, beautiful, scary, and unexpected world of 2018. With the grandness of Kate Bush, the scope of early Brian Wilson, the experimentation of contemporary classical music, the intricacies of Johanna Newsom, and the intimacy of Grouper, Julia Holter has made one hell of an album.