On Repeat: Jolie Holland

Jolie Holland’s last album, Springtime Can Kill You, was one of the real gems of 2006, a bluesy and deeply moving set of parlor songs that blurred the lines between country, folk, and jazz, and, with lyrics littered with broken hearts and dreams, revealed itself over time to be a sophisticated and smart song cycle about love, lust, and longing. And the voice– oh, what a voice. With her sultry Texas twang and phrasing that vaguely evoked Billie Holiday but never felt like an imitation, Holland established herself as, quite frankly, one of the best vocalists in recent memory.

And she sounds even better on her upcoming fourth album, The Living and the Dead— not just in terms of her singing, but in the writing and playing, too. Though it just clocks in at ten songs, and two of those are covered, it’s such a fine, passionate piece of work that it immediately becomes not just the most expansive and fully-realized album of her career, but the best one, as well. Much has been made about the fact that Holland plugs in and delivers some genuinely thrilling guitar rock on a few songs, but that’s just one side of this multi-faceted and complex piece of work. I won’t spoil its many surprises now– wait for my full review, which will be posted next week– but I will say that it’s simply a killer album, and one of the most quietly addicting things I’ve heard this year.

And you can get a taste of it for yourself; though the record doesn’t hit stores until October 7, you can hear one of the standpoint tracks, “Palmyra,” right now.

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