7/21/17 – Julie Byrne “Not Even Happiness” (2017)

Julie Byrne (no relation to David) is an American singer-songwriter who has released two albums, this being her latest. Her sound is extremely intimate – simply her voice and her guitar for the most part, and the way she sings and plays draws you in to herself. Her voice is absolutely enchanting, slightly deep but just as gentle as the great Folk singers of the past. She plays that same Indie-Folk that I fell in love with when I first heard Iron & Wine’s debut album The Creek Drank the Cradle (2002), and I’ve had a soft spot for that sound ever since.

Byrne opens with Follow My Voice, a great song to introduce the album. The soft and quiet strings in the back and echoed guitar bring you closer and closer without her even singing. When she does sing, the overall effect is so calming and tranquil that I can’t help but succumb to her charms. Sleepwalker is my favorite on the album- both her playing, singing, and writing is completely on point here. She tells the story of her wanderlust-filled life, moving from state to state and never staying still. Similarly with relationships, she never felt rooted and in love, instead quite alone. What fascinated me was her opinion that she was just blindly following her dreams and never being truly conscious, just a “sleepwalker” through life. As someone who is occasionally jealous of people who travel often, this was something I hadn’t considered. Melting Grid is simply stunning, and it features a gentle flute for the bridge that always reminds me of “The Shire” leitmotif used in the LotR movies. They both perfectly draw from that warmth and comfort that Folk music brings.

Sea as It Glides is another highlight, and she further cements the dreamy atmosphere with her gentle cooing. Field recordings of a beach serve as the outro, but my favorite part of this song is the lonely electric guitar that pops up now and then. It shows up again on the closer I Live Now as a Singer, a song that recaps the story of this album – the change in her life from being alone and wandering to one that’s rooting down with a new love. It’s a wonderful album that is perfect for an evening that’s winding down. Fans of singer-songwriters will feel right at home with this album, and it’s up there with my favorites of 2017 so far.