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Holly Miranda

The Magician’s Private Library

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Label: XL Recordings

In February, Kanye West posted a simple, 30-word blog entry, linking to a free download of “Waves,” one of then-unknown Holly Miranda’s pre-release buzzers. Since then, the Detroit native has found herself signed to XL Recordings, opening for Tegan and Sara and featured in her very own Vanity Fair article – all of this attention for a woman who has been selling music professionally since 2003. It’s quite a success story, even if it might end up being a haunting glimpse of Mr. West’s unlimited power. The Magician’s Private Library, however, reassures us that Holly won’t go down as merely “that girl Kanye likes.” The Dave Sitek-produced The Magicians Private Library revels in a broad, all-encompassing sound that seems to diffuse from the walls themselves – ending up being remarkably intriguing because of it.

Miranda makes music for nighttime. The top of opener “Forest Green Oh Forest Green” comes armed with a dusky, unsettling troposphere, complete with deep-space twinkles and submerged, moon-baiting wolf howls. “Slow Burn Treason” and “High Tide” drip with smoky drums, stargazing synth and murky piano, the penultimate “Canvas” is a languished, dozy endeavor, lingering just above pure comatose – and the sixth song is squarely titled “Everytime I Go to Sleep,” which details the process of (what I imagine to be), a toddler’s bedtime. “Everytime I go to sleep I / Kick and scream and dream a little bit.

Sitek obviously has experience creating this sort of twilight soundscape; the TV on the Radio discography has always been known for a heavy dose of gloom. But his sonics have never sounded quite as cheerful as they do on Private Library. The tracks, despite their swarthy complexion, have a certain illusory charm to them. Sitek cues up a pulpy, hot-jazz ensemble and a movie-trailer choir on almost all the tracks – even getting somewhat Arabian Nights-y on highlight “No One Just Is” – definitely something to ride your magic carpet to.

If all of this is making you think of a certain Florence and her wonderful Machine, you wouldn’t be far off. Miranda definitely has more than a few things in common with her British counterpart- the lush instrumentation, the storybook lyrics and even their voices sound obscurely similar. But while Florence blows your doors off with titanic detonations like “Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up),” Miranda instead infiltrates your synapses with a much more subversive sound. A few of the tracks, “Joints” in particular, work as slow-burning interims, letting Sitek’s sonic snowstorm work its way into the deep recesses of your brain before kicking it into a brass-flurry overdrive. The track that follows, the much more understated “Waves,” offers a comforting respite from the bombast, giving the listener an accustomed, (but by no means not beautiful) indie pop jingle. It’s a tactic that flows through The Magician’s Private Library until the record’s end, offering a panoramic, and surprisingly enduring listening experience. I guess Kanye isn’t always wrong.

by Luke Winkie
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