Not Even Happiness – Julie Byrne

Happy (just about) June Brothers. I am going to stick with the tradition of starting my AOTM post by apologising. I have been under-active on our little blog and I am very late to the June AOTM party. The reasons are the same as usual. Life is too hectic and I am poor at managing it. I have taken steps, I am currently working my notice period and changing jobs with the aim of a longer term better quality of life. Another change that I have made this year is that I have not let me love of music suffer at the hands of a hectic life. My escape into music this year has focused mostly on calm and ‘therapeutic’ additions to my new-music folders. ‘Not Even Happiness’ is no exception to this trend.

I would like to present what I consider to be, a thing of beauty. It’s probably filed under ‘Folk’ of some sort but Guy, please don’t let that put you off. For me this is irrelevant as this works on so many levels and for so many environments. I listen to this all the time. It’s been a universal constant in my life since it was released earlier in the year. Back in the cold of Feb and March it felt like a warm winter blanket. In April and May it felt like shoots springing-up through new ground. Now it feels like a cold beer on a sticky evening, chilling out on the decking. There few albums that can pull off this trick.

I won’t go track by track on this one as I could make a strong claim for each one to be my favourite or my ‘stand-out’ track from the album. The instrumentation is simple, sparse basic. Her voice is immaculate and the production of her voice matches this perfection. Her range is impressive but she never feels the need to make a show of it. There are no fancy, show-off vocal embellishments, there is no need. Her finger picking is beautiful. I think its interesting that she chooses to use an electric guitar rather than an acoustic guitar on some tracks. The guitar is paired with a small and varied number of other instruments through out the album, few tracks have more than 2 or 3 instruments and I think I am write to say that there is no percussion on the whole album?

The result is a hauntingly beautiful collection of songs that merge and sway into one another like clothes on a line. This album brings out the best in me. It makes me smile, and loving, and grateful, and thankful. It makes me kiss my wife and ruffle my kids hair. I am a happier person for this album being in my life. I hope that you enjoy it and I hope it makes a similar emotional dent in your life.

Happy listening. As always, if you can give it a run through on headphones you won’t be disappointed.

Bear Essentials

Sweet Jesus, Grizzly Bear are back after a 5 year hiatus. I’m such a huge fan. I return to their music time and time again. It’s a whole world away from your average US college rock, Pitchfork-loved guitar band – though Pitchfork probably do love them. I find their music endlessly fascinating, full of interesting layers and their songs tend to open up the more you listen to them. That makes them sound like a tough listen, which they’re not at all. But they do have intimacy to their songwriting despite having quite a ‘big’ sound.

This first single seems to have picked up where the last album left off. I wasn’t sure to start with, and then I liked it; and now, on the 20th listen, I completely love it.

Album’s coming in August and they’re playing Manchester on October 6th. I’ve just bought tickets. Anyone fancy joining me?