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Loud City Song

Julia Holter

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Album Review

"There's a flavor to the sound of walking no one ever noticed before," Julia Holter sings at one point on her third album, Loud City Song, and if anyone could notice that, it would be her. Holter excels at bringing emotional depth to her high-concept music and never more so than on this set of songs, which feels as ambitious as Tragedy and Ekstasis, but more down to earth. This may be her most accessible work yet, perhaps because of its relatively contemporary setting: drawing from Colette's 1944 novella Gigi (as well as the 1958 musical film it inspired), Loud City Song explores the city, celebrity, the individual, and love in fin de siècle Paris and 21st century Los Angeles, blurring them together in ways that get at more universal truths. In Gigi's time or Holter's, there are people who love spectacle, celebrity, and gossip, and Holter examines this brilliantly in the two-part "Maxim's." Named for the famed Parisian restaurant, the first part fades in like a glittering mirage coming into view, and as she breathlessly wonders, "Into Maxim's we will see them walk/Will they eat a piece of cheese or will they talk?," Holter captures the banal curiosity of the celebrity-obsessed. "Maxim's II" goes a step further, with woozy brass sliding from old-school musical charm into free jazz chaos that implies Holter made good on her threat: "Say it to my face/If you want to be starting something." Even at its noisiest, Loud City Song sounds expensive; this is the first album Holter recorded in a professional studio (which is noteworthy, considering how sophisticated the home-recorded Tragedy and Ekstasis sounded). Gorgeously arranged strings, brass, and harpsichords grace songs like "World," which gently and poignantly introduces the claustrophobia that fully emerges on the stunning "Horns Surrounding Me," where hurried footsteps and insistent brass give the impression of a stylized hunt. The lavish surroundings also bring some of Holter's catchiest songs yet to life: rustling flutes add to "This Is a True Heart"'s bittersweet sophistication while a jaunty acoustic bass provides the backbone for the fascinating "In the Green Wild," which sounds like the perfect blend of Joni Mitchell and Laurie Anderson. Cerebral pleasures like these are balanced by emotional ones such as the torchy snippet "He's Running Through My Eyes" and an ethereally sensual cover of Barbara Lewis' "Hello Stranger" that slows everything down to bask in the beauty of Holter's voice, which is often overlooked given all the other things going on in her music. In that regard, this album is no exception; with all the intriguing details in the words and music, there's a lot to digest. Loud City Song is Holter's most polished work to date, and another example of how she upholds and redefines what it means to be an avant-garde singer/songwriter.

Customer Reviews

Metropolitan texture jam

For many of us, the entry point to Julia Holter's work was Exstasis. Because her work is so difficult to compare to most of what else is out there, it is tempting to first compare to Exstasis. So I will…

Exstasis is full of quirky twists and beguiling complexity. It rarely allows the listener a moment to rest in a particular sonic space - which is good and lends itself to multiple listens without the utter boredom typical of most indie music... In contrast, with Loud City Song, the moods are lengthy and compositional complexity less in the linear/structure domain than in the evolving texture of sounds. And what sounds they are. With Exstasis you could almost feel the home craft vibe but here the production is up several notches and feels robust and professional. Lots of actual instruments here rather than samples and sequencers. Lyrically, the world bubbling below Loud City Song is more accessible, full of the sounds, observations, and reveries of urban life that seem romantic and timeless.

After three months with Exstasis I thought, Julia Holter will record a great record someday. At six months I thought, wait - she already HAS. With Loud City Song, I think it's fair to say she has recorded two great records.


Really enjoying the emotional intimancy of this album. It is beautiful. Love the way she pronounces certain words and sounds. Very interesting.

Her child-like voice is child-like and real spitty sounding.

Gorgeous music. She just needs to do something about the fact that it always sounds like she has too much spit in her mouth. It's a thing nowadays…. intimate female vocals with spitty consonants. Really, trust me. Listen to Julia Holter and other bands like Phantogram. Ladies! Stop it! Get a drink of water and swallow.


Born: December 18, 1984 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Los Angeles-based composer/multi-instrumentalist Julia Holter blurs the boundaries between indie music, modern composition, and electronic music in her own work as well as her collaborations, which include work with Nite Jewel's Ramona Gonzalez and underground folk icon Linda Perhacs. Holter grew up in a musically inclined family — her father is a guitarist who once played with Pete Seeger — and studied electronic music at CalArts. After graduation, she began releasing music at a prolific...
Full Bio

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