REVIEW // Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness (Basin Rock/ Bada Bing)

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This article originally appeared on DIY Magazine

Julie Byrne’s debut, ‘Rooms With Walls And Windows’, was inspired by her time living in a Chicago apartment with no mobile phone or landline. But Julie has spent the better part of the last few years living a nomadic lifestyle, calling everywhere from Chicago and Pittsburgh to Buffalo and New Orleans home. As she puts it herself on ‘Sleepwalker,’ “I crossed the country and carried no key.” 

It’s unsurprising then that her travels have shaped the sound of second album ‘Not Even Happiness.’ It’s a record wrapped in tenderness, gentle acoustic guitar and Julie’s comfortingly warm voice forming its foundations. Much like in her own personal life, she has expanded her horizons, adding small flourishes of harmonica, woodwind and lush strings throughout the record to give some added texture. 

The simplicity of the tracks musically just helps to highlight her lyrics, where she documents the romance and reality of life on the road. She’s a storyteller, evoking stunning images by singing of details such as the “verdant field” and “sun split ember,” and painting the American landscape in vivid colours. It’s a deeply romantic vision in all senses of the term. On ‘Natural Blue’, Julie conflates her feelings with the natural world, singing “when I first saw you the sky was such a natural blue,” while on ‘Morning Dove’ she notes that “life is as short as a breath half taken, I couldn’t wait to tell you the truth.” 

At other times, she’s more reflective and even mournful about her wandering lifestyle, commenting on her search for an “anchor.” Though Julie has now settled in New York, with ‘Not Even Happiness’ she takes the listener on a beautiful, thoughtful journey.

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