Review : Holly Miranda - The Magician's Private Library
MusicomhIn a recent magazine interview Holly Miranda, ex-frontwoman of hipster rock band The Jealous Girlfriends and recent signing to XL, was asked about the production on this, her debut solo album. Produced by Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio, she had this to say about its sound; "At one point, Dave said to me, 'I'm putting my finger prints all over this record', and I said, 'I know, I love it'". It's a pertinent point, not least for those that may have heard her recent EP Sleep On Fire, which housed her Cat Power-esque vocals in a decidedly more stripped back musical setting.
As with Cat Power, it's in this setting that you may feel Miranda's fragile, feather light songs work best, and a cursory search on youtube will bring up a handful of engaging solo performances, not least a heart-wrenching version of Waves filmed in a bar. But, what's special about The Magician's Private Library is that yes, Dave Sitek's fingerprints are all over it - there are rumbling basslines, minimal beats, treated guitar sounds, horn blasts courtesy of Antibalas - but at it's heart are ten deftly arranged and lovingly created tales of dealing with physical pain (Joints deals with Miranda's battle with fibromyalgia) and emotional pain (the beautiful Slow Burn Treason).
Sitek's production also adds a fantastic sense of having to uncover different layers to the songs, such as opener Forest Green Oh Forest Green. Starting with a childlike, fairground melody the song unravels almost as a round, with lines repeated over top of parping horns, acoustic guitar and some lovely harmonies. On first listen, it almost passes you by, giving you no real sense of what Miranda's voice sounds like, but slowly the melody wriggles to the surface and it's repetitiveness becomes it's brilliance....full text
NmeThere’s a rare neurological condition called synaesthesia, in which senses are jumbled in the brain, so the sound of words are perceived as tastes, or music as colours. With her first solo album, Holly Miranda has managed to pull off a similar sort of psychic trickery: listening to this record feels like leafing through a box of old photographs. It’s
a beautiful, unnerving experience that rattles on long after its final notes fade.
Little wonder it’s so mesmerising, given the places it comes from. The now-Brooklyn-based singer grew up in
a devoutly religious family between Detroit and Tennessee, raised on a strict diet of church, church and more church. When Miranda realised she was “really gay”, so the story goes, she did a runner to New York, where she dodged a villainous record deal, formed a band called The Jealous Girlfriends and made friends with TVOTR’s Dave Sitek, who was so taken with her eerie, lilting voice that he produced ‘The Magician’s Private Library’ before there was a hint of a record deal anywhere near it....full text
BbcHolly Miranda has been sat on her debut solo album for a good year or so, over which time this Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has built up quite a head of hype.
First, there was the news that she was working with David Sitek, mad scientist behind TV on the Radio and go-to studio guy for seemingly every forward-thinking band in New York City. Next, none other than Kanye West set tongues wagging when he leaked Slow Burn Treason, a woozy, slow-motion synth lament featuring a cameo from TV’s Kyp Malone, to his personal blog.
If Holly Miranda is blowing up, though, she’s destined to do it in a quiet way. For all the excitement surrounding The Magician’s Private Library, it’s a largely low-key record, one that melds Sitek’s familiar studio trickery with a drifting, ethereal atmosphere as reminiscent of Mazzy Star or the Cocteau Twins as anything Sitek has put his name to before. Sound is deployed layer by layer, Miranda’s tender, soulful voice floating across an intricate backdrop of icy synth, digi-percussion, heavily treated guitar and occasional sunny horns, courtesy of Stuart Bogie and Eric Biando of New York’s Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra.
Such is Sitek’s influence on the record that it takes you a little while to get to know the real Miranda. While initial listens find her songs somewhat opaque, they gradually open up to reveal their emotional depths. “This needless pain that stains your face / It doesn't need to be,” she pleads, on the fraught Waves, while No One Just Is is deliciously wicked, lyrics spat darkly over winding, exotic strings....full text
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