Vinyl Corner : Juana Molina ‘Halo’

Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect, as well as a brief overview of the music itself. This time we’re having a look at one of 2017’s finest albums, Juana Molina’s superb ‘Halo’.

The Music:

Over the past twenty years, Juana Molina has created one of the most quietly fantastic discographies in alternative music. Massively original, she’s made numerous albums that all share an attitude and outlook but differ in their execution – this year’s ‘Halo’ marks her first since 2013’s ‘Wed 21’ and it’s every bit the work of genius that her earlier albums were. Continuing in the more electronic direction of her last album, ‘Halo’ is more avant-garde and abstract than the often acoustic, pastoral shades of her earlier work but is no less vibrant. Even though her discography is both varied and consistent enough that singling out any one album as her best is futile, ‘Halo’ certainly ranks amongst her strongest efforts.

The Pressing:

This is a great pressing that sounds far better than its modest statistics might suggest. Dead silent and nicely mastered, hearing it on an analogue format is definitely the way to go despite the predominantly electronic soundscape on the album. Although the CD actually sounds excellent as well, this vinyl pressing has fantastic dynamics and sonics. Molina’s richly layered vocals pop out of the mix, the brightly flanged guitars and gurgling synthesizers all sounding great in a mix that gives every instrument good separation and space. The pressing is very quiet with no surface noise that we could hear and despite only being on fairly lightweight vinyl – about 120g by our measurement – it sounds excellent with really nothing to fault. The records are also clean from new with no signs of factory handling on our copy. At 55 minutes, it’s quite a short double LP with sides normally lasting about 12 – 15 minutes, but that’s no bad thing as the album’s spacious sonics and ample presence speak for themselves.

The Packaging:

Packaging is relatively simple but nevertheless very appealing on this release. The album comes in an attract gatefold which presents the quirky, off-beat cover art very well, with print quality high throughout and the album art’s narrow colour palette lending the image plenty of impact. The sleeve is printed on fairly lightweight card but it doesn’t feel flimsy and is certainly enough to still feel solid. The album also includes two lyric inner sleeves which house the records. It’s a very welcome inclusion but they are printed on thin paper so not only are they easy to crease but keeping records in them for a long time is likely to cause both ringwear on the sleeves and sleeve removal marks on the records, so swapping them out for sleeves of your own choice is definitely recommended – although the lyric inners are certainly a nice touch.

Final Thoughts:

‘Halo’ is a genuinely fantastic album and certainly one of the best records of 2017. In a career full of inventive and hugely imaginative albums, ‘Halo’ is one of the strongest. Sonically this is a pressing that more than lives up to the complexity and nuance of the music itself and it stands as a thoroughly recommended release. Snag a copy while you can because Molina’s albums have a tendency to only go up in price.

For more on Juana Molina, read our full review of ‘Halo’ here.