Monday, October 20, 2008

Reviews:: Jolie Holland The Living And The Dead

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Ms. Jolie Holland’s voice is a powerful instrument, one as identifiable as any in music. Unlike so many other female artists that push jazzy arrangements into pop songs, nothing about the way Jolie twists sounds ever seems too perfect and that makes her songs so real and vivid. It’s also what makes her songs so rewarding. A great writer knows when to bend the rules of grammar and structure to make a point, and Jolie (successfully) makes the same assumptions about great singers.

That being said, her voice is like a hug from a friend you haven’t seen in years, crisp fall mornings, a great cup of coffee or the last few pages of a good book. Why? Well, essentially because you have to be completely off your rocker to not enjoy any of those things, but much like those simple joys, people seem to take her voice for granted. Along with being a forming member of the terrific Be Good Tanyas, Jolie has been asked to contribute her voice on songs by diverse artists like Greg Graffin and Sage Francis, and can count Tom Waits as one of her biggest fans, but for some reason you almost never hear people talking about her.

Obviously, with that many type of artists in her corner, it’s no surprise that her new record (The Living And The Dead) is one of the most consistent and enjoyable records of the year. But she’s been writing terrific songs for years, so by now most people know of her beat poet tales and voice, so why does this record stand out? It’s not just her voice or the stories she tells. No, its that on this record Holland exudes a confidence over top of the atmospheric, roots guitar and allows her well placed harmonies to sunny up the shadows in a way that forces you to pay attention. She challenges herself and you with interesting and unexpected textures and decisions.

She has always been able to tell the tale of the bottom of the bottle, the bottom of the heart or the bottom of the soul, but thanks to the guitar work/arrangements from M Ward and Mark Ribot, the songs don’t reside in the darker corners of the room. The horns that dot the Mexico City transport you into the world of the down trodden characters she sings about, but somehow keep you from feeling their pain. The loneliness that Jolie sings about on You Painted Yourself In is completely contrasted by the weightless strings and whistle that accompany the emotion.

She adds a bit more muscle on songs like Your Big Hands and a perfect amount of energy on the rootsy Palmyra, and those bigger sounds really work well for her as the make tender country tinged ballads like Sweet Loving Man seem even more tender and the openness of Love Henry seem even more vast. This is the type of record that will say a thousand different things to a thousand different people, but no matter what message you take from these songs, I find it hard to believe you won’t cherish the experience.

Posted at 1:50 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

Jolie Holland is amazing.

If you like her, listen to the rest of the Anti- artists on their sampler. It's great.

You can download it OR stream it:


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