Holly Miranda shines through a heavy atmosphere on The Magician’s Private Library 

As producers go, Dave Sitek isn't exactly known for his light touch — he's more on the Spector end of the spectrum. Best known as the guitarist and producer of his own band, TV on the Radio, Sitek is the primary architect of their sound. Artists go to Sitek and come out on their albums sounding like they're floating in a dim, deep space filled with reverb and lonely times, annexed like an adjacent suburb to TV on the Radio's own familiar sound. The hallmarks of Sitek's studio work include guest appearances from one or both of TVOTR's singers Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, the low moan of Antibalas' baritone horns and a female vocalist cooing — recessed ever so slightly in waves of twinkly, processed guitar din. These are constants, regardless of what band happens to be mic'ed up at the time.

The Magician's Private Library, Holly Miranda's recent debut for XL, is perhaps the first Sitek production (barring his work for TVOTR) that holds up under the pall. Miranda, a Brooklyn-based chanteuse/bandleader/songwriter is backed by a quartet, and as sweet and honeyed as her voice is, there is something tough and muscular that is able to best all that Sitek piles on. Her melancholy-baby blues voice is haunted by traces of her church-singing and jazz background, giving her a bit of quirky dexterity, as showcased on "Everytime I Go to Sleep." Plenty of reviews compare her voice to that of Cat Power's Chan Marshall — and they do have a similar sultry/sleepy tone — but where Marshall sounds weary, Miranda is witchy and commanding (especially so on "Joints"). On the album's highlight, "Slow Burn Treason," Miranda sounds like she's just been roused from a nap and is singing her gorgeous dream. With sinewy-voiced Kyp Malone backing her, the song builds in intensity, and Miranda pleads to her dream girl, "Who's gonna love you?" as if to convince her the question is rhetorical.

Miranda's backing band is on the softer, more linear side of Brooklyn art rock — their downtempo tunes are awash in subtle atmospherics, lonely late night indie-rock hooks blended with bits of synthetic beats and percolating electro blips. But even with the band's tight capabilities and Sitek's long shadow curling around her, Miranda really and truly makes The Magician's Private Library her own show.

Email music@nashvillescene.com.


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