In a sonic built from a childhood flitting between Nashville and Detroit, Holly Miranda’s vocal sits in a space all its own. Having arrived on the scene with 2010’s The Magician’s Private Library which came out via XL, new album Mutual Horse marks her fourth solo effort and her first since 2015.
Mutual Horse is Miranda’s most collaborative project to date, featuring guest vocals from the likes of TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, Modest Mouse’s Jim Fairchild, My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Nova and Built To Spill’s Matthew Morgan. Working with so closely with other artists has led Holly to feel vulnerable, opening herself up to new partnerships to the point where Mutual Horse no longer feels like hers, instead belonging to each person that helped to create it.
Photographs from the 70s were taped to the walls of the studio for inspiration. One such photo – of singer-songwriter Cris Williamson – later became the inspiration for the album’s name, too. The nostalgic mood board has manifested itself thematically throughout Mutual Horse both musically and lyrically. Take the brass-led funk of ‘Golden Spiral’, taken straight out of a scene from Boogie Nights, or the swinging groove of ‘When Your Lonely Heart Breaks’, a cover of the original by Neil Young.
From the gritty guitars and crashing drums on album opener ‘Wherever You Are’ to the bright percussion and breezy chords on ‘To Be Loved’, to downtempo ballad ‘Let Her Go’, Mutual Horse is a cocktail of instrumental ideas as diverse as Miranda’s vocal. With a tone that’s reminiscent of the likes of Karen O, Holly Miranda’s voice traverses soaring crescendo in the top notes, to intimate honeyed whispers and sultry crackling lo-fi in shuddering ‘Mr Fong’s’. Retaining a consistent sweetness throughout, it’s in the stripped back instrumentation of tracks like ‘Sing Like My Life’ that Holly’s vocal shines the brightest. “He said he found love once,” she croons, echoing that feeling of nostalgia felt throughout the record. ‘Do You Recall’, with its twinkling xylophones encapsulates the same sentiment – “I remember a time when I was young and we were in love,” Miranda sings.
We’re accustomed to each Holly Miranda record sounding different to the next, as she explores new musical ideas with each piece of music that she puts out. Her work threads together with her distinctive and stunning vocal and that penchant for intimate and honest songwriting. Mutual Horse is no different, reaching into a deeply personal past and gazing into her future to craft her stories.