An echoing acoustic guitar, subtle synths, and a calming voice is all you need to sit back and reflect for awhile. That's where indie folk is most pure, and it's also where Julie Byrne's sophomore album Not Even Happiness can call it's core. Byrne tells a plethora of reflective stories atop of starkly pretty instrumentals that create a very peaceful atmosphere to get lost in.
The album begins with the sweet, brushing acoustic guitar of 'Follow My Voice,' Byrne's voice gently crooning above it. The instrumental is simplistic, a phantom synth and string combo occasionally bouncing in and out to add color throughout the track. 'Sleepwalker' follows up with a slightly more energetic drive, and finger plucked acoustic guitar leading the track as Byrne sings very calmly above it. This is the kind of song you can imagine being performed by a campfire with friends around, or at a late-night pub in the heart of the country. Its storytelling vibe really gives it a lot of character.
There are a lot of tracks that really follow the same vibe, so there really isn't much that stands out like those two do for quite some time. The flutes and orchestral elements of 'Melting Grid' are sweet, but, again, it's nothing major to give the song much more strength. This is not meant as a shot at the record - it's phenomenally written and clearly has a lot of heart. It can be a peaceful and enjoyable listen without being a particularly capturing one.
There are a few moments that do spark some more interest, though. One such song is 'All The Land Glimmered.' Unlike much of the rest of the record, this song has an optimistic mood to it rather than a bittersweet one. The acoustic guitar rings high and peacefully, with an almost country flair. It has a dark mood to it but its much more bright in comparison to some other tracks. Closing track 'I Live Now As A Singer' also changes things up by abandoning an acoustic instrumental and instead moving to a muddy synth chord. Subtle sounds build in the background as Byrne croons for one final time before the record closes out as peacefully as it began.
It's easy to find peace in Julie Byrne's new album Not Even Happiness. It tackles stories that give the record a lot of heart, and you can tell that its a very personal one. It may not be particularly capturing or exciting, but it's definitely something that allows you to reflect on things while you listen. Perhaps at the end of the day, that's exactly what you'll need.
Favorite Tracks: Sleepwalker, All The Land Glimmered, Follow My Voice
Least Favorite Track: Interlude
Rating: 74 / 100
Buy or listen to Not Even Happiness here: