Julie Byrne, currently a New York resident who has lived a rather nomadic existence, plays gentle, dreamy, ethereal psychedelic folk. He lush voice is backed with strings to match. On her second album Not Even Happiness, is it apparent that Byrne’s talent for pitching a song just right comes as naturally as it did on her 2014 debut Rooms With Walls And Windows. Perfection takes time though, and this album has been a full two years in the making. It’ll be worth it, you’ll see.
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First up: full disclosure. I once said 'hello' to Julie Byrne. I'll try not to affect my judgment of her new record but I just thought I'd throw it in there in the interests of fairness. Despite my 5 second interaction with her I've managed to keep a sensible distance from her music and so have enjoyed listening to her latest album.
She's one of these people who moves around. It's not as if she's homeless as such but she moves from city to city - wherever she lays down her acoustic guitar that's her home. She has a lovely dark chocolate voice (as I remember clearly from our meeting) and on record she sings like Joni Mitchell over folky laments which veer from sad strums to rather perky finger picked daydreams. 'Sleepwalker' is a barrage of delightful picks which picks up the pace somewhat after slow moving opener 'Follow My Voice'. She has something, she really does. 'Melting Grid' is quite the thing indeed. Her voice sweeps and swoops over simple acoustic strums with lovely subtle flute accompaniment. In fact one of the strong points of this record is Eric Littmann's production. He leaves Byrne front and centre introducing barely there unobtrusive textures to accompany her. This works superbly on 'Morning Dove' - a woody leafy composition with spring-like tendrils of acoustic guitar and *that* voice with just the hint of subtle electronics carrying it along. It's the perfect combination, on 'Sea as it Glides' the subtle sound of waves accompanies Byrnes soft as velvet vocals.
Fans of Marissa Nadler, Vashti Bunyan and Laura Veirs take note. The closing track is called 'I Live Now As A Singer'. On the strength of this she deserves to. I live now as an office administrator but I can still see the value in this sensual and ethereal work.
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- Not Even Happiness by Julie Byrne
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