Holly Miranda may have made her name performing preppy indie-pop as part of ‘The Jealous Girlfriends’ but as the whirring, twitching fairytale electronics of ‘Forest Green Oh Forest Green’ click into place over a blithely opaque canvas of industrial noise, there’s only one artist who springs to mind upon listening to her much-anticipated solo debut – the dissonant lushness of St. Vincent. Like Annie Clark on the stunning Actor, The Magician’s Private Library finds Holly Miranda equally as fascinated by the jarring juxtaposition between the gorgeous and the disgusting.
And for the first few tracks, Holly utilises this fascination to wondrous effects – the twitterpated ‘Forest Green Oh forest Green’ manages to be just saccharine enough to be truly unsettling – encapsulating the same kind of demonic, relentless cheeriness which makes clowns so disquieting -and ‘Every Time I Go To Sleep’ is as gauzy and as dream-like as it’s namesake – every sleepy, trilled nuance from Holly’s mouth swept up lovingly by reams and reams of dreamy cellos and lush, languorous horns.
Elsewhere, the paradoxical nature of Holly’s compositions works against her – the feather-light, feedback-soaked melody of ‘Joints’ is inopportunely drowned mid-way by torrents of stodgy, brash horns, and ‘No One Just Is’ attempts to create a venomous ambience by using abrasive, Fiery Furnaces-style keyboards and punishing walls of feedback over Holly’s Vampiric,Victoria Legrande-reminiscent coo, but without any clear song structure, it unfortunately sags.
And, sadly, about three-quarters of the way through the album, Holly seems to give up on the lush orchestral sections that made ‘Forest Green Oh Forest Green’ so compelling, and becomes entirely mired in turgidly polite electronica – tracks like ‘Canvas’ and ‘High Tide’ drift inconsequently by in a haze of twinkling keyboards and swathes of synthy fug like a particularly charmless Au Revoir Simone – leaving you desperate for anything, anything incongruous to break the eerie restraint of it all.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel – under any other circumstances, closer ‘Sleep On Fire’ couldn’t be considered exactly incendiary, but in the hazy half-light of The Magician’s Private Library, Holly might of well have begun spitting and snarling biliously over a Black Sabbath record – it’s pounding drumbeat and muted guitar chords are as about as uninhibited as ‘The Magician’s Private Library’ gets, Holly even allows her voice to uncoil itself from painfully tempered mewl into a full-throated warble and a gentle, fluttering flute even strings itself, tantalisingly, over the closing chords, like a reminder of ‘The Magician’s Private Library’s erstwhile wondrousness.