Jolie Holland has always existed in the peculiar margins of “roots” music. The singer-songwriter and founding member of the Canadian folk group The Be Good Tanyas has dabbled efficiently in everything from soulful blues to jangly alt-country. On her fifth release, Wine Dark Sea, Holland sets sail for more experimental shores, coupling her fondness for American music traditions with colorful, off-kilter compositions.
The experimental accompaniment and embellishments here often nod at the more melodic side of Tom Waits or the pop-song-meets-sonic-shitstorm formula embraced by Wilco. A frenetic, noisy guitar tears a hole through the middle of the retro R&B of “Waiting For The Sun” (and really, most of the other tracks as well) and a distorted bass clarinet injects the breezy, piano-based tune “All the Love” with a taste of twisted jazz. Holland’s intriguing, often charming slur, which can be an acquired taste for those who aren’t already fans, might sound out of place in her previous, more traditional arrangements, but fits better among the weirdness here. While Wine Dark Sea isn’t exactly reeling with the wild-eyed abandon it is marketed as being full of, it’s an exciting step out of the conventional box that stunts the artistic growth of many of Holland’s contemporaries.
Jolie Holland plays the Top Hat with JD McPherson Sun., July 27, at 8 PM. Doors open at 7. $14/ $12 advance at tophatlounge.com