When: Wed., Sept. 26, 9 p.m. 2012
In her sweet songs, Los Angeles singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Julia Holter juggles ideas from pop and classical—musical disciplines usually worlds apart. She doesn't seem to see anything particularly unusual about her hybrids, which rarely draw attention to themselves anyway. As she told the Wire in an interview earlier this year, "You listen and you feel like there's an infinite number of ways to go. . . . I never feel like I know exactly what everything's going to be like." The 27-year-old attended grad school at CalArts, where she studied under Wandelweiser Group composer Michael Pisaro—her 2010 album Celebration features a performance of one of his pieces. She makes absorbing use of field recordings—on the nearly 16-minute "Bars in Afternoons," dialogue and ambient noise from bars in Los Angeles and Paris are the tapestry into which she weaves a melancholy piano part and eventually a bittersweet pop song—but she's also collaborators and friends with neo-80s synth-pop singer Nite Jewel. Her richly detailed new album, Ekstasis (RVNG), polishes its catchy melodies to a beautiful shine, and it's consistently accessible even though its tunefulness sometimes recalls Baroque madrigals and the lyrics incorporate texts from Frank O'Hara and Virginia Woolf (Holter's previous record, Tragedy, was largely based on Euripides's Hippolytus). Like Arthur Russell and Laurie Anderson, she seamlessly marries pop music and the avant-garde, but she's a better singer than either—and she also seems way less self-conscious about the combination, presenting ambitious ideas with confident clarity. As much as I like what she's already done, I'm even more eager to see where she goes next. —Peter Margasak Hundred Waters and Night Beds open.