In a more normal year, it’s entirely possible that I would’ve overlooked Julie Byrne’s Not Even Happiness without blinking an eye. This isn’t to say that I’m incapable of appreciating a quality stripped-down singer-songwriter album. But I guess it’s just a little hard for one of them to really grab me, especially one that relies so heavily on what I usually refer to as “pleasantness”. Which is the very definition of a back-handed compliment, and maybe one I should consider using less.
Because in a year where chaos seems to reign supreme, I find there’s been something incredibly comforting about wrapping myself up in the softness of Byrne’s guitar-playing and her voice. Hell, the album begins with the lyric, “Follow my voice./I am right here./Beyond this light./Beyond all fear”. And this has definitely been an album you can kind of just put on and kind of retreat into yourself while listening to. Which I think is something that has become healthy for us humans to do from time to time.
It’s kind of been a weird thing for me this past month or two when curating what music I should be listening to in the grand scheme of things. I know The Clash have definitely been one group that I keep turning to, while coupling that with a Joe Strummer interview that reminds me of how to hang on to my humanity. And though I feel like music that’s loud and bucks the status quo is good for this, it’s possible I had underestimated how music that lulls you into a meditative state can do just as much to remind you what it is to be human.
Anyways, I kind of got off track from making this an album review, but I guess I’m pretty ok with doing that more often nowadays. I’m especially ok with it because who knows if this’ll be an album I’ll be returning to down the road. Not Even Happiness seems particularly suited for this time of year, since it not only evokes a kind of sweater-y warmth, but in a relatively new year also sees Byrne’s lyrics reflecting on the past lives and loves of years’ past. But most of all, has the power to remind you that feelings like comfort and solace are still there, you just need to let them in.
Favorite Tracks: “Follow My Voice”, “Natural Blue”, “I Live Now As A Singer”