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.

6 comments

  1. whyohwhyohwhy

    Nice write up, as always, brother Joseph. I feel your work/life balance pain, but music is the solace I often seek. When life feels too crammed, music takes me out of this, so finding an album that works all year round sounds like bliss.

    For clarity: I’m not a big folky but I’m always open to new stuff. I LOVE Carrie and Lowel, and that’s pretty folky. So bring it on.

  2. misterstory

    Achieving work/life (lack of) balance is a constant struggle for me. Last year I let it get the better of me and I realised come the end of the year that I didn’t really have 5 favourite albums to share with you guys. I had 5 albums I really liked but they were pretty much the only new albums I’d listened to in 2016. I’ve been way more proactive this year and have fallen back into my old engagement with music (helped somewhat by buying a turntable and buying my favourite music on vinyl).

    Thanks for clarifying your position on folk 🙂 I think my reference to you was a very old memory about a comment on an album you didn’t like so wholly unfair of me to dig up! This one is a little more conventionally folky than Carrie Lowel but definitely in the same ball-park of ‘beauty’. I hope you get to listen to it a decent amount and I hope you recover from what sounds like a horrible injury. I’ve pulled both calf muscles in both legs and that is no fun at all but you seem to have taken it to a new level!

  3. Guy Hornsby

    ThIs is really pleasant, it just washes over you. As I’d expect, really, so so far so good.

    But my challenge is making it stick. I have had it on a few times now, and it’s been really nice background fare, but I’m not – as yet – connected with specific tracks or the album, and I struggle to remember its name to search for it.

    That’s the trick, though, isn’t it? I’m not done yet.

  4. David Allison

    Firstly, apologies. I have often harangue others for not posting, so it’s super lame for me to be so behind. Sorry! We’ve had no childcare all month and have been staggering through it. Anyway, am trying to play catch up now.

    So, Julie Byrne. I ran into Nolan the other day, who said he wasn’t sure if I’d like this, as he didn’t think I was that into folk music. I did a proper WTF at him, as I pretty much lived off Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Joni Mitchell, Sufjan Stevens and Iron & Wine for years. I’d also remind him that I was the one who put forward the Anais Mitchell album a while back 😉

    But maybe he has a point in a roundabout way, in that perhaps I struggle a little more with straight down the line voice and guitar albums like this. There’s been a lot of it in the last decade, and though I do always enjoy listening to the genre, I find myself thinking – well, haven’t I heard this before? So it is lovely. And she has a really beguiling voice. But the songs aren’t sticking to me; they’re floating on by on the air. So it’s very pleasant as a listen, but it hasn’t wormed its way into my soul, the way an album needs to do if I’m to return to it time and time again. Perhaps that will change.

    What I kind of long for when I’m listening to it is a bit more of an angle, something fresh, something less straight down the line. An interesting comparison is the recent This Is The Kit album (that I highly recommend), which is definitely folk but which has got touches of groovier stuff in there that really makes it sing:

    Perhaps that’s what I’d like to see a bit more from our Julie. But perhaps that’s not what she’s about. A nice album, anyway, and one I’ve enjoyed when I’ve played it.

  5. nolankane706

    Randomly, I came across Julie Byrne’s album ‘You Would Love It Here’ earlier this year and instantly was addicted to it. When brother Joey suggested her new album as you would expect, I was well up for it.

    There is allot to be said about seasoned artists when you think about folk. They become more polished, the production is better and their experience tends to bring a better soundscape. I’ve always struggled with this happening. I like the rawness of new artists on a budget. I like to think of them in some coffee shop singing their heart away, and the matured version seems to loose this.

    On first listen, I had the same issue with this album. On that note, you usually only need one or two songs to pull you in. On this album it was ‘Follow My Voice’ and ‘Sea As It Glides’. In fact they still have the rawness that I love so much. ‘Natural Blues’ is a winner for the radio, and Hayley knew it from 6 music.

    At times I was a bit confused with certain aspects of this album, ‘I Live Now As A Singer’ sounded like an Enya B side. The lyrics were good, but the song wasn’t.

    Over all I really like this, it’ll have a place in my world for sure!

  6. David Allison

    OK. Update. I’m afraid Julie hasn’t really grown on me any further. I can’t find the thing that will pull me in. It just washes over me. Sorry Julie. You seem really cool but we’re just not gelling 😦

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