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Holter’s fond of framing her songs and records around classic works. Ancient Greek drama and French art-cinema from the early 60s informed Ekstasis. Here, inspiration and stray geographical details are taken from Gigi, a French novel from the 40s about high-society romance in 1890s Paris, turned into an American movie musical in the late 50s. This tactic establishes a kind or regal remove from the grubby pop-culture of the moment, and acts as antidote to the sort of oversharing social media overloads us with. It keeps you from reading lyrics as the usual singer songwriter confessions, the intended-to-be-transfixing train wrecks of a new Fiona Apple record, or the dejected hush of an old one by Elliott Smith, say. You never feel like you’re getting a version of her real life. There’s still intimacy, though. Holter lets you in on her silly bouts of bored dress-up, shows you an artist’s refuge from the real. It’s pretentious, maybe, but with a non-pejorative use of the word. It’s make-believe.
Profiles to this point have probably oversold Holter’s background in academic composition. It’s true that she’s drawing from a wider music-theory tool-kit than your average DIY singer. The nimble fluidity of the songs might be too intricate for a novice to stumble upon. But she has a light touch with her material that lets it overcome all sorts of things that might otherwise seem annoying on paper, even when accurately described. You acknowledge the “Jazz-clubby-ness”, maybe a little “drama-kid-icity”, but the overall effect is elegant, adult. And crucially, that sophistication doesn't come with any cynicism attached. It’s a record that's wide-eyed and bright, that works mainly as whimsical pop. It's unusual, yet still soft-cotton cozy. It's more charming than you thought it might be.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_klingman.