Julia Holter : Something in the Room She Moves

Julia Holter Something in the Room She Moves review

In my youth, I had been taught that the only mood I was supposed to feel when listening to music was the Holy Spirit. In my twenties, I allowed myself to feel more than that, but it wasn’t supposed to happen outside of listening to music generally considered cool. Eventually, by growing into my feelings and understanding what they could show me, I learned how to first recognize and then follow where any mood could take me, no matter what the music. And that opened up whole new worlds of growth and expression.

I think Julia Holter might appreciate this kind of trajectory, if her own career is any indication. Early on she made well-crafted, artful indie pop, but as she expanded her vision, her music has grown increasingly mystical and mood-driven. She hinted at this with 2018’s Aviary, but it became especially noticeable in her 2020 soundtrack for the film Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Behind the Wallpaper, the 2023 album she created with Spektral Quartet. 

This steady progression into the intersection of ambient and modern classical fully reveals itself on Something in the Room She Moves. Her latest release on Domino finds Holter crafting sparkling yet reserved avant-pop layered with profound ambition. Gone are any hints of the guitar-centric music she created on her earliest projects. Instead, she graces our ears with sumptuous synths, sun-kissed pads, spaced-out bass, and gloriously lilting alto. 

The overall sensation reminds me of a cloudy spring day and all the open-ended experiences you could enjoy in such a setting. I can imagine walking hand-in-hand through the park with a lover, lounging outside on a patio reading a book, getting lost in meditation during a rain shower, and so on. Holter delights in fresh exploration, as the moods range from florid melancholy and driven determination to delicate dreams and sensual spirituality.

Musically, Something in the Room She Moves relies on a rotating core of synth, bass, woodwinds, and horns. Only a few tracks feature any sort of traditional percussion and nary a guitar is to be heard. Holter has formed a postmodern chamber quartet of talented multi-instrumentalists skilled in pop, jazz, folk, and classical—equal parts Alice Coltrane, Kate Bush, Cate Le Bon, and Joanna Newsom. 

“Sun Girl” drips with indie-pop affectation before being turned on its head by languid keyboard pulses and pitch-bent effects. While it’s the most straightforward tune on the album, the title track possesses an effervescent energy, thanks to its attention to dynamics and and lush vocal delivery. On “Spinning,” clattering percussion and a firm bass root note offers a sturdy foundation for Holter’s airy vocals and twittering bird-like synth effects. My favorite song on the album, “Talking to the Whisper” channels new age jazz through meditative grooves, flute solos, and loosely collected washes of sound.

Something in the Room She Moves use mood as a lodestar by embracing a naturalistic and impressionistic aesthetic. Exuding an experimental elegance, Julia Holter powers her music all via a keen sense of purpose. She isn’t wandering blithely through a torrent of emotions. She’s channeling her feelings into her art. She first encourages the listener to pay attention to what she’s saying, and then she welcomes them to feel the music on their own terms.

Label: Domino

Year: 2024

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Julia Holter Something in the Room She Moves review

Julia Holter: Something in the Room She Moves

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