You will know within a few moments of listening to Holly Miranda whether on not she is going to ring your musical bell. Having spent her youth in her native Brooklyn with punk band The Jealous Girlfriends Miranda has now branched out alone and picked up her neglected acoustic guitar to craft a modern folk sound imbued with melancholy. If that doesn’t perk your interest then take heed of the albums contributors, chiefly album producer Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio and fellow band member Kyp Malone making various vocal appearances.
With this blog straddling zeitgeist pedigree it is a shame then that Holly Miranda’s debut album does not have more substance to it. Like so many US indie acts at the moment Miranda makes music so laid back and wistful it struggles to engage or ignite any true feeling in the listener beyond a mix of tender relaxation bordering on apathy. That’s not to say Miranda isn’t talented nor that ‘TMPL’ isn’t worth pursuing. Sitek’s production is impressive throughout and shows a less seen side to his technique. His previous work with the likes of his own band, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and the famously deserted sessions with Foals have pushed the Brooklyn don close to parody as he drowns yet another hipster act in reverb. On ‘TMPL’ however he takes a back seat, allowing Miranda’s brittle vocals to sway gently over a mix of strummed guitars, under stated brass sections and delicate beats. At no point does anything sound like it was recorded at the bottom of a canyon.
Having said that, to contextualise this record in amongst Dave Sitek’s previous work it would be holding hands and arousing indie boys with Scarlett Johansson’s ill advised debut solo album ‘Anywhere I Lay My Head‘. Individually tracks such as ‘Waves’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’ posses an innate beauty akin to the likes of Beach House and the Kyp Malone featuring ‘Slow Burn Treason’ is similar to Bon Iver and St Vincent’s sublime duet from the recent Twilight sound track. Grouped alongside one another however and Miranda’s songs are so delicate and ethereal that they melt into one another rendering this albums fourty five minutes a difficult occasion to remember. There are however moments where the pace quickens such as ‘High Tide’ and album opener ‘Forest Green Oh Forest Green’ which elevate the record completely. These relative highs give a spine on which the light and floaty core of the album can fly free. It is the middle section of the album that is the let down, so immersed in creating a mood it feels lost in an ambient atmosphere thus losing failing to register any actual feeling or emotion.
Symptomatic of a trend running through indie music at the moment this album feels like the back ground music of a culturally aware dinner party. Holly Miranda makes nice music, sometimes really pretty but it doesn’t say anything real or move emotions to anywhere even nearing an extreme. As a result The Magicians Private Library fails to tick that most important box: evocative.
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