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Holly Miranda The Magician’s Private Library Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

If Miranda is blowing up, she’s destined to do it in a quiet way.

Louis Pattison 2010

Holly Miranda has been sat on her debut solo album for a good year or so, over which time this Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has built up quite a head of hype.

First, there was the news that she was working with David Sitek, mad scientist behind TV on the Radio and go-to studio guy for seemingly every forward-thinking band in New York City. Next, none other than Kanye West set tongues wagging when he leaked Slow Burn Treason, a woozy, slow-motion synth lament featuring a cameo from TV’s Kyp Malone, to his personal blog.

If Holly Miranda is blowing up, though, she’s destined to do it in a quiet way. For all the excitement surrounding The Magician’s Private Library, it’s a largely low-key record, one that melds Sitek’s familiar studio trickery with a drifting, ethereal atmosphere as reminiscent of Mazzy Star or the Cocteau Twins as anything Sitek has put his name to before. Sound is deployed layer by layer, Miranda’s tender, soulful voice floating across an intricate backdrop of icy synth, digi-percussion, heavily treated guitar and occasional sunny horns, courtesy of Stuart Bogie and Eric Biando of New York’s Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra.

Such is Sitek’s influence on the record that it takes you a little while to get to know the real Miranda. While initial listens find her songs somewhat opaque, they gradually open up to reveal their emotional depths. “This needless pain that stains your face / It doesn't need to be,” she pleads, on the fraught Waves, while No One Just Is is deliciously wicked, lyrics spat darkly over winding, exotic strings.

And it’s not all gloom and doom: an album highlight comes with the bright horns of Sweet Dreams, while Sleep on Fire closes the album on a sunny note, a lightly countrified canter flecked with proggy guitar flourishes and, you may notice, not a David Sitek production trick in sight.

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