Holly Miranda was always the main draw of The Jealous Girlfriends (QRO spotlight on), and not just because she was the only actual girl in the band (though she has been the subject of many an indie-rock crush…). Her high wash of a voice was used to great effect on the group’s two records, neither buried under rock nor left to carry it all on her own. So it comes as no surprise that she’s ventured out on a solo career (Girlfriends began as her project, before she roped in producer Alex Lipsim to plays keys & bass, drummer Josh Abbott stepped forward to share vocal and guitar duties with Miranda, and Mike Fadem was recruited as the new drummer – QRO interview with Fadem, Lipsim & Miranda). But while her solo debut, Magician’s Private Library, certainly has the Miranda charm, it lacks that prior underpinning to make it more than just nice.
Library begins with a kind of ‘up wash’, including horns, thanks to “Forest Green, Oh Forest Green”, and it is definitely a winning opener. The following “Joints” is the most Jealous-sounding, thanks to its high wash, but is a bit slower than her old band. Unfortunately, from there the record struggles to be truly memorable. The somewhat bigger “Waves”, somewhat darker “No One Just Is”, and the stripped & haunting “Slow Burn Treason” are all nice, but only the guest backing vocals on “Slow Burn” from Kyp Malone (TV On the Radio, Iran) really stand out, and “Sweet Dreams” feels too much like “Forest Green”, too soon.
There is something of a pick-up in the back half of Library, however. “Everytime I Go To Sleep” more fully embraces a cute nature, one that Miranda otherwise seems to want to shy away from, with an airy uplift. The indietronic beat of “High Tide” has better orchestration above it – that especially stands out next to the following “Canvas”, which is stripped to vocals and a downbeat indietronica, and is the most forgettable piece on the record. The march-up drumming to closer “Sleep On Fire” is a little uneven, but gets interesting, though doesn’t feel like the last song on an album (it was the title track to her solo debut EP), leaving one a little surprised when the record subsequently ends.
Since it’s 2008 release, The Jealous Girlfriends’ self-titled sophomore record (QRO review) has sounded more & more special, even as the band seemingly disappeared (they’re not officially over, but Miranda’s commercial success is probably preventing any end to the ‘hiatus’). Miranda still plays Jealous songs on the road, currently in the ‘indie girl power’ tour as opener for Tegan & Sara (QRO review on the tour), with a backing band larger than The Jealous Girlfriends ever were. The Magician’s Private Library‘s high wash is certainly enjoyable, and probably gets her fans who never heard of The Girlfriends (Miranda definitely has a higher profile, from being featured on AfterEllen to just recently booking her own headlining date – QRO concert listing – at Bowery Ballroom – QRO venue review), but it can’t ever match Jealous‘s best pieces, such as “Secret Identity” or “Pink Wig To My Salieri”. Sweet, if never meeting expectations.