There’s something about the songcraft of downstate-based singer-songwriter Julie Byrne that appeals to more than just the ears. Her music, at once spectral and tangible, whisks the listener to Byrne’s weightless place of soft melodies and personal experience. And it is this very suspension in which Byrne spends most of her latest album, Not Even Happiness. A sprawling musical simplicity contrasts the album’s deepest exploration of feeling, in what can be considered one of the most striking collections of songs so far this year.
Musically, Byrne channels artists like Cat Power, Leonard Cohen, and Sufjan Stevens, all of whom with music that shares innate, personal elements. Not Even Happiness uses that element liberally, with tracks that explore the places, namely the Pacific Northwest, and feelings of Byrne’s most recent years. The expansive skies and ebbing tides of this record almost purposefully paint it a faint blue, with songs that breathe and ache right along with the artist performing them.
Album highlights include the light electronic embellishments of “Natural Blue” and clincher “I Live Now as a Singer,” fingerpicked melodies of “Sleepwalker” and “All The Land Glimmered,” and the instrumental explorations of “Melting Grid.” “Follow My Voice” opens the record allusively with a natural magnetism pulsing from the song’s rhythmic draw. From the very start, Not Even Happiness is the sonic equivalent of a book too captivating to set down—“just one more page.”
While now calling home to New York City, Julie Byrne was once a native of Buffalo, so for those of you who strictly listen local, I’ll hear no excuses from you. Not Even Happiness is out today via Ba Da Bing Records, with select singles streaming on Byrne’s Soundcloud. Check out “Natural Blue” below.