These Artists Are Demanding More From Their Audiences

Julia Holter and My Brightest Diamond create rich sound experiences.

Album Reviews

Julia Holter
Aviary
Domino

My Brightest Diamond
A Million and One
Rhyme & Reason

Is it better to challenge your listeners or make nice with them? In recent years, Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards) have created more accessible music by tempering their eccentricities without abandoning the qualities that made them interesting in the first place.

Others, including Julia Holter and Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond), offer their listeners a more demanding experience. Holter’s previous studio album, 2015’s gorgeous “Have You in My Wilderness,” epitomized elegant chamber pop, offering luminous, piano-based tunes that showcased her soothing voice. While she still sounds like herself on the 15-track, 90-minute “Aviary,” the end result is less commercial than before. Songs often meander and resist resolution, blending understated dissonance, quiet noise, and instruments ranging from synths to bagpipes, along with more familiar inviting melodic touches. It all feels like an intriguing, fuzzy dream that mesmerizes without providing easy comforts.

For her latest album as My Brightest Diamond, Shara Nova (formerly Shara Worden) puts her classically trained voice to commanding use on a jittery set of dance-inclined raveups and woozy ballads. Shouting, chanting, and crooning with cool flair, she tells stories of angst and self-fulfillment, coming off as a sweetly crazed yet benign spirit who takes a brisk, occasionally harrowing psychic tour but gets home safe and sound.

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