Fans of Holly Miranda’s work with The Jealous Girlfriends are already familiar with her evocative vocals. Ranging from falsetto coo to deep, menacing purr, Miranda's distinctive voice is the centerpiece of a solo debut that expresses gritty truth using sounds of otherworldly freedom. Given the reported night-owl recording schedule — 7pm to 9am — it’s no surprise to find a dream motif pervading both tone and verse.
While TV On The Radio guitarist Dave Sitek’s production is not quite the “Tinkerbell on Codeine” job he pulled on Scarlett Johansson’s solo record, elements of that approach are evident. There’s certainly a sense of the uncanny fairytale on opener “Forest Green Oh Forest Green,” where the staccato-chime rhythms call to mind will-o’-the-wisp folklore and earthen, creeping vines.
Sitek, though, is careful not to bury Miranda’s voice or simply position it as just another instrument in the mix. Her lyrics remain at the forefront, and they juxtapose real-world pain with the desire to escape into magic or dreams — and idea that manifests itself not only in her lyrics, but also her vocal style. So although the somnambulant central pairing of “Sweet Dreams” and “Everytime I Go To Sleep” have the same ethereal drift as tracks like the wistful “Waves,” they also feature sudden moments of sharp cynicism. ‘What’s real is really bullshit,’ Holly notes dryly on “Everytime…”
By the record's conclusion, the airy enchantment of its title and Holly’s keen awareness of the inescapable nature of day-to-day living are in harmony. On “Sleep On Fire,” her voice carries a weary melody. Life is hard, it seems to say, but living only in dreams is harder still. No matter how magic the book, sooner or later it has to be closed.