Review of Holly Miranda's album The Magician's Private Library released through XL Recordings.
Holly Miranda, ex-frontwoman of rock band The Jealous Girlfriends, has gone it alone with 'The Magician's Private Library', her solo debut album. Opener 'Forest Green Oh Forest Green' begins unnervingly childlike, as if you find yourself at a fairground. To be honest, it's a bit creepy, makes you think of evil clowns and actually becomes a bit repetitive. There's the odd enjoyable harmony, but it doesn't make any great impact on first listen and would probably make suitable 'mood' music; hardly something to be proud of as a musician.
'Joints' is a track that has been lovingly crafted to highlight the physical pain of Miranda's battle with fibromyalgia; it glides along quite nicely to begin with, offering some tidy guitar work, but Miranda's haunting vocals stray into wails and midway through the track you are quite pleased to hear them drowned out by blasts from the horn section.
'Waves' contains in an emotional vein but is easier to listen to than the tracks that go before it; the lyrics are relatable and the drums rumble along nicely. Live performances of this track are sure to be moving; it's a shame this is the exception rather than the rule of this album.
'Not One Just Is' uses keyboards more heavily than many of the other tracks and shows a harsher range to Miranda's vocals. It lacks any clear direction though and really just limps towards its end. Similarly, 'Slow Burn Treason' is a song supposedly about emotional pain, but it seems quite fake and isn't as believable as Miranda no doubt intended it to be.
The album momentarily picks up with 'Everytime I Go To Sleep'; it's been carefully written and is delicately delivered. That doesn't mean it is a song about happiness though; by now you will have come to expect a darker edge to the tracks and with lyrics such as "every time I go to sleep/ I kick and scream and dream a little bit / Violently awakening to what's real is really bullshit." you have to remind yourself that this is the case again and there's no room for smiling here, thank you.
The final three tracks, including 'Canvas' and 'High Tide' are inconsequential to the album. They don't show off Miranda's vocal ability to any great effect and any charm she fleetingly possessed in earlier tracks has gone. This isn't to say Miranda doesn't give her all; she is obviously confident within herself and her ability and this is something that will stand her in great stead for the future.
This album is too much of a mixed bag to be able to give a fair assessment of Holly Miranda as a solo artist. There is obviously some potential to build on, but both Miranda and her production team need to write better songs and find better arrangements; the use of rumbling basslines and horn blasts work really well when interspersed amongst the stronger lyrics, but this just doesn't happen often enough.