On the ninth track of a ten track album, “Vasquez,” Julia Holter finally prefaces the album: “Let me tell you about faces I see.” The faces observed in Have You in My Wilderness are obscure like the muddled faces of a vapid dream, but ambiguity does not equate to apathetic writing. Somehow, the emotionally weighty lyrics drifting through Holter’s fourth albumcompose her most accessible and resounding collection to date.
On “Feel You,” Holter portrays someone conflicted between infallible cosmic self-awareness and cathartic emotional torment. Holter has always been a journeyed lyricist with the narrative gravitas of a David Fincher film. On Have You in My Wilderness, Holter’s narrative is more intimate than allusive. The albumreflects Holter’s storytelling abilities rather than her talents at synopsizing a literary work with the opacity of a Georg Hegel essay. However, true to her California Institute of the Arts education, “Language is such a play,” as she exhales on “Silhouette.”
Future Rock Band adaptations of Holter’s work would prove to be a nightmare, as her vocal delivery continues to be unique and deliberate. Regardless of tonalities, Holter’s voice emits more power than ever. Vocal dynamics are paramount in the mix, making each song feel especially personal, regardless of the topic.
“Lucette Stranded on the Island” is Have You in My Wilderness’ defining moment. Ambiguities penetrate the dense compositional fabric of cherubic crescendos and ethereal harmonies. Observing an unclearly familiar person, Holter observes that “He lights his cigarette with nothing,” as “strange birds fly.” With no minutiae present in Holter’s memories, the emotions saturating the orchestration and lyrical climax are central to its interpretation. Even a scarring story of sexual assault like “Lucette Stranded on the Island” can be recounted, but transmitting its supernovae of emotions is emblematic of rare talent that affirms Holter’s mesmerizing narrative prowess in its own deified tier.
An exterior evaluation of Have You in My Wilderness is a spectacle of its own. Artistic and approachable efforts like “Feel You” and “Sea Calls Me Home” are charming, with more repetitious melodies and familiar snare snaps. “Everytime Boots” is an especially elastic effort that’s almost danceable, like a hoedown ballroom at a funeral.
Holter’s measured but eager lyrical rhythm can deter from her otherwise victoriously reticent songs like “Night Song.” Even studious listeners will be overwhelmed by her brisk vocal pace at the beginning, and her borderline unproductive lyrical repetition.
Recommended If You Like: Tori Amos, Kate Boy, Nite Jewel
Recommended Tracks: 1 (Feel You), 4 (Lucette Stranded on the Island), 5 (Sea Calls Me Home), 8 (Betsy on the Roof)