Aviary (album)

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Aviary album cover.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 26, 2018 (2018-10-26)
StudioBand House and Julia Holter's Studio (Los Angeles, California)
GenreExperimental pop
  • Julia Holter
  • Kenny Gilmore
Julia Holter chronology
In the Same Room
Singles from Aviary
  1. "I Shall Love 2"
    Released: September 6, 2018
  2. "Words I Heard"
    Released: October 17, 2018

Aviary is the fifth studio album by American musician Julia Holter, released on October 26, 2018, by Domino. It was preceded by the singles "I Shall Love 2" and "Words I Heard". The album title is derived from a line in poet Etel Adnan's 2009 collection Master of the Eclipse.

Writing and composition[edit]

Holter has said that concepts regarding 'memory' were a key influence during the writing of Aviary. In an interview with DIY she revealed that "Memory was a theme that kept coming up. Memories that emerge in the mind that get in the way of your own thoughts. I started noticing there was wings imagery, birds."[1] She has mentioned that these themes were mainly influenced by Etel Adnan's Master of the Eclipse and Mary Carruthers' The Book of Memory. Talking about both works in an interview with Pitchfork, Holter stated that "I was reading Mary Carruthers' The Book of Memory, about how memory functioned in the Middle Ages. Memory is something I'm deeply interested in. The Etel Adnan book talks about how memories stalk you, and that really resonated with me:.. "I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds." What I've realized is that there are these connections in my mind between extremes: beautiful sounds of birds, shrieking sounds of birds, beautiful memories, terrible memories... And that's where_ Aviary_ all made sense to me: These birds that are like memories flying around, everything kind of happening at once."[2]

Holter has also named jazz musician Alice Coltrane and her fifth album Universal Consciousness as an influence. While composing songs such as "Words I Heard", Holter has stated that she, "improvised some melodies to fly around the song, and then transcribed that for violin into 4 parts [...] each in similar ranges, doing similar things but at different times, kind of diving into that "hocketing" effect I was into throughout the record. That exciting combination of synth and strings in Coltrane's music feels hopeful in a way, the beauty feels infinite or something, and I was inspired by it."[3]

Release and promotion[edit]

Holter announced the release of Aviary on September 6, 2018,[4] alongside the release of the lead single "I Shall Love 2", accompanied by a radio edit and a music video directed by Dicky Bahto, who also designed the album cover.[5][6] On October 17, she released a second single, "Words I Heard", also accompanied by a radio edit and a music video directed by Bahto.[7][8] The video was inspired by an essay by Etel Adnan, who also inspired the album title.[9] The album was released on October 26 through Domino Recording Company digitally and on a double CD and 2xLP.[10] Holter began writing the album in 2016, and later recorded demos of the songs at home. Many of the vocal takes from those solo recordings, which she used to guide collaborators in the studio, ended up on the album.[11]

Alongside the album announcement, Holter announced a North American and European tour in support of the album. The tour began in Lake Perris on October 14.[12]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[15]
Consequence of SoundB+[16]
Financial Times3/5 stars[18]
The Guardian4/5 stars[19]
Mojo3/5 stars[20]
Q4/5 stars[22]
Resident Advisor4.3/5[23]

Aviary was met with widespread critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 83, based on 23 reviews.[14] Aggregator AnyDecentMusic? gave the album 7.8 out of 10, based on their assessment of the critical consensus.[13]

Matthew Blenkarn of Exclaim! wrote, "Sweeping and intimate all at once, Aviary never settles for comforting platitudes or dour resignation. It's honest, it's hopeful, and it's surely among Holter's finest achievements."[17] Under the Radar's J. Pace stated that while the album "may appear to be on fire, it has always been so, and the everyday emergency in which we find ourselves is not the exception: it's the rule. And surrounded by all this noise, this eternal series of accidents, Holter the poet chooses to process it all and create something beautiful."[25] James Oldham of Q wrote, "It's not always easy, but it is frequently brilliant."[22] Reviewing the album for AllMusic, Heather Phares stated "Holter answers the chaos of 21st century life by following her bliss; the results are a constellation of moments that celebrate the fullness of her music and, as always, make for fascinating listening."[15]

Jim Wirth of Uncut said, "There are jarring moments but Holter's quest to channel the clatter of the universe produces transcendent beauty too."[24] In a more critical review, Chris White of musicOMH said, "Aviary is not a great album—it's too much of an ordeal for that accolade, requiring multiple listens to even start to engage with meaningfully. But it is, in its own idiosyncratic way, a towering artistic accomplishment. Just be prepared for a hard slog scaling the summit."[26] Mojo's Andrew Male gave the album a mixed review, writing, "It's all so sad, and surrounded by 80-plus minutes of restless, questing uncertainty."[20] Consequence of Sound's David Sackllah wrote, "While some edits could have crafted a more concise record, this grand, indulgent piece finds Holter at the height of her ability. Even the quiet periods are always entrancing."[16] Rachel Aroesti of The Guardian said, "Holter doesn't drop quite enough of these joyful crumbs to cajole the listener through the entirety of this 90-minute epic—yet there remains a glut of beauty and braininess in store for those willing to stick around."[19]


Publication List Rank Ref.
AllMusic AllMusic Best of 2018 N/A
Consequence of Sound The Top 50 Albums of 2018
The Guardian The 50 Best Albums of 2018
musicOMH musicOMH's Top 50 Albums of 2018
Noisey Noisey's 100 Best Albums of 2018
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 2018
PopMatters The 70 Best Albums of 2018
The Quietus Quietus Albums of the Year 2018
The Wire The Top 50 Releases of the Year

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Julia Holter, except "Les Jeux to You", written by Holter and Devin Hoff.

1."Turn the Light On"4:16
4."Voce Simul"6:34
5."Everyday Is an Emergency"7:45
6."Another Dream"6:07
7."I Shall Love 2"5:18
8."Underneath the Moon"6:49
10."In Gardens' Muteness"6:36
11."I Would Rather See"4:51
12."Les Jeux to You"6:18
13."Words I Heard"6:39
14."I Shall Love 1"5:09
15."Why Sad Song"6:07
Total length:89:48



Credits adapted from the liner notes of Aviary.[36]


  • Julia Holter – vocals, keyboards
  • Dina Maccabee – violin, viola, vocals
  • Andrew Tholl – violin
  • Tashi Wada – synths, bagpipes
  • Sarah Belle Reid – trumpet
  • Devin Hoff – double bass
  • Corey Fogel – percussion


  • Julia Holter – production, arrangements, recording
  • Kenny Gilmore – production, recording, engineering, mixing
  • Cole MGN – executive production
  • Connor Grant – additional bass recording (track 12)
  • David Ives – mastering
  • Dicky Bahto – artwork
  • Matthew Cooper – design


Chart (2018) Peak
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[37] 86
Scottish Albums (OCC)[38] 34
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[39] 94
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[40] 99
UK Albums (OCC)[41] 73
US Heatseekers Albums (Billboard)[42] 16

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Ref.
Various October 26, 2018 Domino


  1. ^ Ayers, Mike (October 26, 2018). "Julia Holter: 'I Don't Write Music Based on What I Think Other People Want'". Billboard. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  2. ^ Sherbourne, Philip (November 8, 2018). "How Destitute Times Inspired Julia Holter to Make an Album of Beautiful Excess". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  3. ^ Richards, Will (October 17, 2018). "Julia Holter talks the empathy and escape of new album 'Aviary'". DIY. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  4. ^ "Julia Holter returns with fifth album, Aviary". Fact. September 7, 2018. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  5. ^ Rettig, James (September 6, 2018). "Julia Holter – "I Shall Love 2" Video". Stereogum. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  6. ^ "I Shall Love 2 (Edit) – Single by Julia Holter on Apple Music". iTunes Store. Archived from the original on November 7, 2018. Retrieved October 22, 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ Slingerland, Calum (October 17, 2018). "Julia Holter Shares New Song 'Words I Heard'". Exclaim!. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  8. ^ "Words I Heard (Edit) – Single by Julia Holter on Apple Music". iTunes Store. Archived from the original on November 8, 2018. Retrieved October 22, 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  9. ^ Minsker, Evan (October 18, 2018). "Julia Holter Shares New Song 'Words I Heard'". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Julia Holter | Domino Mart". juliaholter.dominomart.com. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  11. ^ Geffen, Sasha (October 18, 2018). "Julia Holter on 'Aviary', Her Great New Album". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  12. ^ Daramola, Israel (September 6, 2018). "Julia Holter Announces New Album & Tour; Releases "I Shall Love 2"". Spin. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Aviary by Julia Holter reviews". AnyDecentMusic?. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Aviary by Julia Holter Reviews and Tracks". Metacritic. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Phares, Heather. "Aviary – Julia Holter". AllMusic. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  16. ^ a b Sackllah, David (October 26, 2018). "Julia Holter Creates a Dreamlike Kaleidoscope on Aviary". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  17. ^ a b Blenkarn, Matthew (October 24, 2018). "Julia Holter: Aviary". Exclaim!. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  18. ^ Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic (October 26, 2018). "Julia Holter: Aviary — handsome textural depths". Financial Times. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  19. ^ a b Aroesti, Rachel (October 26, 2018). "Julia Holter: Aviary review – sonic beauty and brains in a 90-minute epic". The Guardian. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  20. ^ a b Male, Andrew (November 2018). "Julia Holter: Aviary". Mojo (300): 90.
  21. ^ Pelly, Jenn (November 2, 2018). "Julia Holter: Aviary". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  22. ^ a b Oldham, James (December 2018). "Julia Holter: Aviary". Q (392): 108.
  23. ^ Cetin, Marissa (October 30, 2018). "Julia Holter – Aviary". Resident Advisor. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  24. ^ a b Wirth, Jim (November 9, 2018). "Julia Holter – Aviary". Uncut. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  25. ^ Pace, J. (October 24, 2018). "Julia Holter: Aviary (Domino) Review". Under the Radar. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  26. ^ White, Chris (October 24, 2018). "Julia Holter – Aviary". musicOMH. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  27. ^ "AllMusic Best of 2018". AllMusic. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  28. ^ "The Top 50 Albums of 2018". Consequence of Sound. December 2, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  29. ^ "The 50 best albums of 2018: the full list". The Guardian. December 21, 2018. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  30. ^ "musicOMH's Top 50 Albums of 2018". musicOMH. December 5, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  31. ^ "Noisey's 100 Best Albums of 2018". Noisey. December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  32. ^ "The 50 Best Albums of 2018". Pitchfork. December 11, 2018. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  33. ^ "The 70 Best Albums of 2018". PopMatters. December 10, 2018. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  34. ^ Turner, Luke (December 17, 2018). "Quietus Albums of the Year 2018, in Association with Norman Records". The Quietus. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  35. ^ "2018 Rewind: Releases of the Year 1–50". The Wire. No. 419. London. January 2019. p. 33 – via Exact Editions.(subscription required)
  36. ^ a b Aviary (LP liner notes). Julia Holter. Domino Recording Company. 2018. WIGLP417X.CS1 maint: others (link)
  37. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Julia Holter – Aviary" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  38. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  39. ^ "Top 100 Álbumes – Semana 44: del 26.10.2018 al 1.11.2018" (PDF) (in Spanish). Productores de Música de España. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  40. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Julia Holter – Aviary". Hung Medien. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  41. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  42. ^ "Julia Holter Chart History (Heatseekers Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved November 13, 2018.