Lindsey Stirling

Artemis

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Wielding her violin like a huntress' bow, Lindsey Stirling focuses her classical crossover vision with a deeply imaginative concept for her fifth album, Artemis. Named after the Greek goddess of the hunt and the moon, the effort finds Stirling hitting her artistic stride with a grand soundtrack to a movie that doesn't yet exist, like a neon cyberpunk take on Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings score. Making her early work feel small-scale by comparison -- early-2010s tracks like "Song of the Caged Bird," "Beyond the Veil," and "Heist" come closest to what she's offering here -- Artemis also benefits from fewer special guests, which was a distraction on her previous full-length, Brave Enough. Here, Stirling's animated string wizardry shines and her ethereal vocals do a fine job without too much outside involvement. Not to say special guests Amy Lee ("Love Goes On and On") and Elle King ("The Upside" reprise) aren't welcome here; their contributions are just strategic buffers on an album full of highlights, standout cameos in this world Stirling completely owns. Summoning the mystical spirits of old while channeling future dystopian concepts in a heady narrative centered on persevering through the darkness to reclaim our inner spark, Artemis relies on the tension between light and dark, upsides and downsides, and the past and future to tell a heroic story with full cinematic scope. The grand opening of "Underground," which sounds like Stirling's take on an early-2000s J-pop song, is immediately followed by the sweeping title track, a dramatic swell of shiver-inducing energy that is lifted to the heavens upon her vocals. The rest of Artemis proceeds in a similar fashion, from the rousing "Til the Light Goes Out" and propulsive "Darkside" to the magical "Between Twilight" and angelic "Foreverglow." By the time the fictional credits roll with King's uplifting take on "The Upside," listeners might be begging for a fully realized visual accompaniment to this evocative wonder. With less folksy fiddling or outdated EDM to bog it down, Artemis signals an evolution for the artist, revealing itself to be Stirling's strongest work to date and a pure thrill for fans of her particular hybrid style.

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