Over the past half decade or so that captures Julia Holter’s professional musical career, she has mastered the art of mystery. Her baroque-pop styling and avant-garde tendencies have allowed her music to truly speak for itself while she, herself as an artist, takes refuge in the background of this mystery. She has been very successful at maintaining this mysticism, but that might attribute to the fact that she as an artist is still very under the radar. Her 2013 album Loud City Song was easily one of my favorites of the year, because of the mysteriousness that eludes throughout the entire record. It was strangely luring, and her truly beautiful music arrangement shined through. However on Have You In My Wilderness, she no longer is hiding in mystery, but instead taking the forefront identity and making her most open and bold musical statements to date.
This statement is evident right from the first track, “Feel You”. This was the first single to be released for this record and gave everyone the first taste of what to expect of Have You In My Wilderness. Instead of her usual approach to songwriting of creating songs lyrically that follow some sort of narrative, she instead creates a vignette of her waiting for an unknown person on a rainy day in Mexico City. The song has a beautiful string arrangement with great use of harpsichord, while also creating a completely gorgeous soundscape and atmosphere, and that’s something you’ll find a lot of in this album.
Throughout this album there seems to be a reoccurring theme of being lost and asking questions; not exactly knowing where your destination is or who may be there when you get there. The record speaks of looking for answers in unknown and vast spaces, like in the song “Sea Calls Me Home”. And sometimes, reading and listening to the lyrics written on this record can be very similar. The lyrics are similar to abstract poetry that go back and forth between obvious statements and more thought-provoking verses that can be open to many different interpretations. The one song that I thought was a little out of place on this record was “Everytime Boots”, which introduced a faster paced, nearly big-band sounding rhythm, and it just seems a bit jarring existing in the sonic context of the rest of the album of lucidity and atmospheric. A standout moment for me on this album is the song “Vasquez” which initially comes off as almost a jazz-fusion standard, but then Holter’s vocals creep in and the atmosphere slowly unravels as the song goes on.
All in all, Have You In My Wilderness is a fantastic record in Julia Holter’s repertoire. It showcases her excellent songwriting and impeccable musical arrangements, and really highlights her vocal performance. If you are a fan of her’s, this record will definitely satisfy.
RIYL: Natalie Prass, Kate Bush
Recommended Tracks: Feel You, Vasquez, Sea Calls Me Home