Here in the Midwest, we know a few things about the phenomenon known as “brain drain.” Young and talented people leave our surroundings in massive numbers, taking their talents and dreams with them as they discover big cultural meccas like New York, Los Angeles, and any number of proclaimed hipster capitals that offer the allure of a wider diversity and infinite possibilities.
The ruse is how these same locations can also manage to suck the life out of those young optimists, replacing their identities with a collage of outside influences until they no longer resemble the individual who arrived with such big dreams and ideas.
I bring this up because Holly Miranda is one of those examples of “brain drain,” albeit an unconventional one. After dropping out of her Michigan high school, Miranda turned a quick visit to her sister’s New York abode into her permanent zip code. There was something about the East Village that prompted a need to stay. It also spurred a creative drive which eventually led to an encounter with TV On The Radio‘s Dave Sitek. Sitek eventually agreed to man the controls of her solo debut, The Magician’s Private Library, a ten-song postcard of dreamy landscapes.
I have my own theories and opinions on the kind of person Miranda must have been when searching for a way out, but I can’t confirm them as her debut is so cluttered with Sitek’s heavy-handed production that she could have been replaced by any number of transplants.
The nocturnal recording sessions and similarly themed songs about sleep and dreams barely manage beyond an early morning yawn, and with Sitek’s constant use of atmospheric blankets layered over Miranda’s vocals (which resemble Chan Marshall at various points), it’s no wonder if listeners will find it a challenge to stay focused.
Not even the frequent use of brass horns can wake listeners from what is an extremely lethargic offering.
The fact that it’s slow going is only half the problem. The bigger issue is Magician’s complete lack of identity. With virtually no identifying characteristics and with the arrangement’s unwillingness to meet listener’s halfway, Holly Miranda’s introduction to us is a forgettable as last night’s dream and as exciting as an Ambien prescription.
It seems clear that, in the case of Holly Miranda, the brain drain didn’t start when she left Michigan, it began when she left Michigan out of The Magician’s Private Library.