Saturday, February 13, 2010

HOLLY MIRANDA/The Magician's Private Library CD review

Sometimes, I'll be going through a stack of CDs that have come in to the office and grab a few to listen to during for the 45 minute drive home. Most times, I'll give a CD a fair chance, but if a song doesn't grab me within 60 seconds, I move on to the next.  And then the next.  If I'm not sold five tracks in, then that CD comes out of the player, making room for the next one. Such is the life of a music fanatic....

Well, when I tossed Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Holly Miranda's  The Magician's Private Library into the player, I had no expectations and no idea what I was in for. Sure, I'd heard of her previous band, The Jealous Girlfriends, but I figured they were just another indie band in a sea of indie bands... so I didn't pay much attention. Color me stupid!

The album was produced by Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio, but that wasn't a selling point for me, since i consider TOTR a talented, yet highly over-rated band. I chose to listen since it was on XL Recordings and they always release interesting things. I'll give anything on XL a shot.

From the first few notes of the opening track, "Forest Green, Oh, Forest Green", I was intrigued.  Very charming and innocent but also very smart and accomplished. And very catchy. I did not skip forward.  I was transfixed on the beauty of the melody and the lushly layered production. I was quite pleased that I had grabbed a copy of this, if only for that one track.  

What I didn't realize or expect is that the album only gets better!

"Joints" is another atmospheric track that side-steps the innocence "Forest Green...", adding a slightly spooky, yet beautiful melody to a wall of atmospheric sounds that threaten to crush the heart. 

Next up, "Waves" is the real clincher here: it has an emotional power that continues to floor me every time I hear it.  It has a beautiful, touching melody that is as chilling as it is sweet. Listen to it when you're sad and it will tear you up into little bits and pieces. Listen to it when you're happy and it will carry you to the heavens.  Fucking stunning.  And I don't use those two words together very often.

The album continues in a similar path, combining a warmth and beauty that is rarely heard in Alt-Rock these days.  Cookie-cutter, this ain't!  Though Holly cites Jeff Buckley, Edith Piaf and Nina Simone as influences, this album really sounds like it was tailor-made for the 4AD label.  It's almost what a Cocteau Twins album would sound like today if the band were to return to action.  Actually, I can't see them doing this better than Miranda, Sitek and guests. While "Waves" remains the album's best track, pretty much everything on this album is worthy of dozens of plays in a 24 hour period (and then a few hundred more throughout the year).

In fact, The Magician's Private Library is the first truly outstanding album of 2010 and I'm confident enough to say that it's gonna be pretty damn hard to beat this one.  So, here it is, only February and the best album of the year has already been released! Everyone else better just give up and wait until 2011 to release their next platter cuz it doesn't get better than this!

Here are a few vids that Holly has posted on  These are stripped down acoustic live performances of the songs and are wonderful, but are they don't have the shimmering, wonderful production of the album.

And here's the studio version of "Waves".

You're welcome,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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