Julia Holter branches out in new album

Julia Holter’s fourth album, “Have You In My Wilderness,” begins with orchestral lead single “Feel You.” Holter asks in the chorus: “Can I feel you? / Are you mythological?” and calls to mind the poetic beauty inherent in daily life. With this track setting the stage, “Have You In My Wilderness” expands on Holter’s earlier work while presenting her style in a more general, accessible way.

In her past three albums, the mythological has been crucial to Holter’s sound and lyricism in both abstract and concrete ways. Her first album, “Tragedy,” conjured this with tracks like “Goddess Eyes,” and is based off an Euripedes play. Although 2013’s “Loud City Song” is a concept album based around the 1940s musical “Gigi,” Holter uses her signature misty chamber pop to reimagine the story in a poetic and fantastical way. The concept of mythology is not foreign to Holter, and her newest effort starts with this concept immediately.

The album, however, is less bound to a structure than her previous albums, specifically her last work. “Loud City Song,” while a lush and beautiful record, felt constrained and esoteric because most of its allusions referred to a fairly old film. “Have You In My Wilderness” instead draws on Holter’s life experiences more directly and allows for more wiggle room.

This album also marks an important distinction for the listener. While Holter takes her music seriously, there seems to be a new whimsical ambience to the record. Hand claps, whistling and extended saxophone riffs show a fun-loving side that Holter is known for in her live performances, even when they are juxtaposed with the album’s slower ballads. For those who didn’t know, Julia Holter came to University Program Board’s Spot Night (RIP) in Spring 2013. Throwback.

As a whole, “Have You In My Wilderness” is chamber pop at its finest, with the added bonus of not taking itself too seriously—a common issue for other artists in the genre. While Holter’s ballads and slower pieces fit well, she shines most in her more upbeat tunes. “Everytime Boots” can catch you off guard if you are not paying attention, sounding almost jaunty at times. In “Sea Calls Me Home,” one of the album’s centerpieces, Holter matter-of-factly sings “I can’t swim / It’s lucidity.” Holter takes her music to new places with this record, building a bridge between music that is fun to listen to and expertly arranged orchestral works.

Musician: Julia Holter
Album: “Have You In My Wilderness”
Best Songs: “Everytime Boots,” “Feel You,” “Betsy on the Roof”
Release Date: Sept. 25
Rating: ★★★★½