The best way to describe Holly Miranda’s self-titled album is simply, “self.” A pianist and self-taught guitarist and trumpet player, Holly Miranda reflects authenticity, musical excellence and a slightly eclectic collection of music that may not be found all on the same album often. Regardless, Miranda’s sophomore solo record is singer-songwriting at its highest level, connected by the obvious reflection of Miranda herself.
Serving as the entry point, “Mark My Words” is a bit jarring as to what Miranda is all about. It opens with a busy ostinato guitar line and periodic interjections from jingle bells before being joined by lower, raspy vocals spitting out shorter phrases. Eventually, a bari saxophone and doubled voices flush out the mix, which leads into a full-bodied larger-range vocal melody, increasingly distorted electric guitars, drum kit and a completely different energy than where we started. It’s sort of acoustic folksy, but not really, rock, electric, dark, but not exactly… What? Really, it defies definition.
Though nothing is nearly as out of the box as “Mark My Words,” the music on this album is hard to categorize along established musical boundaries. But as the album progresses, it becomes more and more clear this album is best defined in terms of Miranda, who possesses a kind of self-assured grit and authenticity, and this album lives to reflect who she is. With that in mind, it all makes sense; a true representation of a complex, multi-faceted person.
Playful lyrics, “I want to fuck in the sun and have some fun,” on “All I Want is to be Your Girl.” A fun 80s rock vibe perfect for jamming to on “What You Want.” A shuffle that takes time to get started with nonverbal singing throughout the intro on “Desert Call.” Darker piano and voice-dominated “The Only One.” These tracks only seem to fit together on the same album because they belong to Miranda. A combined use of acoustic and electric, hand percussion and drum kit, and live supplemental instruments such as saxophone, strings and piano, are colors Miranda uses to paint with.
Holly Miranda is confusing to label, but it would be a disservice to stuff this album in a box, much the same way people shouldn’t be limited to simple labels. Miranda found a way to make perfect sense out of seemingly disparate musical elements by using them to say something personal and meaningful. As Miranda says, “This is the most honest thing I’ve ever made; it’s very raw.” And as often happens when artists pour their most honest and raw selves into their music, they create easily understood universal truths worth listening to.