wears the trousers magazine

holly miranda: the magician’s private library (2010)

Holly Miranda
The Magician’s Private Library ••••½

Early reviews of The Magician’s Private Library appear to heavily feature the words ‘Cat’ and ‘Power’ amidst claims that this debut solo effort doesn’t properly showcase the talent of its creator (and erstwhile singer of The Jealous Girlfriends) Holly Miranda, thanks to the over-zealous production skills of TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek. And while Miranda does sometimes portray a similar vocal style to Chan Marshall, such parallels are entirely moot; The Magician’s Private Library is simply incomparable, providing a unique listening experience that makes perfect sense when pictured as having sprung from the inner sanctum of someone rifling through the bookshelves of illusionists, dreamers and believers in the supernatural.

Perhaps magic really shares the ideals of music, and Miranda would certainly have us believe so. From the sing-song opening bars of first single ‘Forest Green Oh Forest Green’, she creates an escapist’s dreamland, unpredictably morphing yet still perfectly structured and completely uplifting. As the horn section plays a warm tribute to Otis Redding, the first impression that settles on this glowing introduction is one of a performer who celebrates her influences but conjures up a distinct, inimitable formula. Miranda’s often-refreshing originality is justifiably the reason why she has been blogged by the likes of Kanye West and scooped by Vanity Fair, and it is showcased in all her material; not until the end of the album does any one song start to sound familiar.

‘Joints’ begins with those Motown trumpets again before dissolving into whalesong guitar reminiscent of Pink Floyd, retaining a gorgeous vulnerability even as layers of pin-sharp intensity are added. On the tracks that follow, winsome melodies betray their melancholy roots with an uplifting servitude, before flitting back to tragedy and desolation no sooner than the magic words leave her lips. “Where do the waves go, my love?” Miranda ponders on ‘Waves’, perfectly capturing a searching moment before sprinkling it with glitter; romance meets tragedy, chanting and hypnotic, as melting strings find their partner in subtle but insistent beats Ultravox would have been proud of.

At times a sound ecology as experimentally pop as classic Beatles, or merely experimental as later Radiohead, is invoked as pages are turned and haunting spells are recited over heartbreak. Sitek’s vocal contribution provides an interesting contrast on the multi-instrumental crescendo of closer ‘Sleep On Fire’. A willing participant, Miranda mystically waltzes through corridors of dusty scripts, the spectre of Jeff Buckley floating above her, sometimes possessing her in a passionate vocal before chasing her from the library to become a hopeless soul once more, leaving only vivid colours and an enraptured girl wishing the adventure would never end.

Yet all good things must, at least for now. But if this stunning debut is anything to go by, we can only hope Miranda has plenty of sequels in store.

Anna Claxton
UK release date: 22/02/10; www.myspace.com/hollymiranda


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