Julia Holter: Tragedy (Leaving Records)
Stunning leftfield art-pop on this fifth album from artist Julia Holter, my first exposure to her wonderful world. From the opening field recordings and repurposed music of “Introduction” to the airy, ghostly finale, “Tragedy Finale,” it’s an odd journey but one well worth taking. The album is based on the play Hippolytus, based on Greek mythology. The history and mythology is somewhat lost on me, but there’s enough of a sense of wonder in these pieces to not require a history lesson. The foghorns that kick off the album recall the more esoteric aspects of OMD’s Dazzle Ships, and throughout the album there is a leftfield charm that resonates. Comparisons to singular female performance artists are perhaps inevitable, and Laurie Anderson particularly comes to mind, if only by way of the jubilant vocoder that leads “Goddess Eyes.” It’s a curious piece of levity in the center of the album, juxtaposed with a hazy interlude. There are truly bedazzling moments elsewhere, like the expansive “Celebration” or the strange layer cake of “The Falling Age.” It’s an album whose majesty is only suggested in clips or previews, and a full listen is really required for it to firmly take hold. It’s a grower, for sure — one of the best of the year.