Agnes Obel: Citizen of Glass
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Julie Byrne: Not Even Happiness

I'm just barely making my before-Ash-Wednesday deadline for this last of three music posts, so I'll be brief.

I avoid reading reviews before encountering the thing itself, whether the thing is music or book or film. But I like comparing my views to others' after I've formed my first impression. After hearing this album once or twice, I thought Kind of sounds like something from the '60s. Vashti Bunyan, maybe, or a female Donovan. Then I went over to AllMusic.com and read that Julie Byrne had

...quickly received favorable comparisons to folk titans Vashti Bunyan and Joni Mitchell after releasing her first two records.

The fact that she made me think of Bunyan must mean that there is a definite similarity, as I've only heard a little of Bunyan's work. I wouldn't have thought of Joni Mitchell, because Byrne's music is considerably less complex, but I see the resemblance. The Donovan comparison is further afield: it's not so much any specific musical resemblance as the vibe of finger-picked folkie guitar, the soft warm voice, and the overall quality of gentleness introspective reflection. Several tracks are lightly and effectively enhanced with strings or electronics, and even a dash of natural sound. 

Not every song is a melodic gem. But the album as a whole keeps my attention. I suspect that most listeners would pick "Natural Blue" as one of the two or three best songs. It also happens to be the most elaborately produced, but I think it would work just fine with only Byrne's voice and guitar.

Thanks again to Rob G for introducing me to this and the previous two albums. 

Comments

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sounds good

It is. Thinking about the Joni Mitchell comparison, I don't think it's especially accurate. Joni Mitchell in her prime was genius-level, which this album is not. Songwriting is not in the same league. But it's very enjoyable in an intimate low-key way.

Are you not posting during Lent?

AMDG

Let’s see...how to word the answer: no, I am not not posting during Lent.

The deadline was for these particular posts, as I plan to listen to sacred music only during Lent.

"But it's very enjoyable in an intimate low-key way."

I normally don't like the "girl (or guy) with guitar" thing, but this record's an exception. I think it's got to do with the mood -- kind of rainy and autumnal.

I was thinking that this 3rd entry might be for Double Negative. Or did you comment on that already? I know we had some emails back and forth about it.

Agreed about the person-with-guitar thing. And I wonder if it was just my youth at the time, or if the '60s recordings in that vein are actually better than most since. It's very dependent on the songwriting. Although the other instrumentation on this album is fairly minimal, it makes a big difference on some of them.

I thought these three "girls" made for a nice set of comparisons. But no, I haven't commented on Double Negative, partly because I hadn't entirely made up my mind. I like it, but how much? I want to sit and listen to it, not doing anything else at the same time, and see what I think.

Good point about the "girls" forming a sort of triptych.

I hope its not too much like Joni Mitchell, because - utter it not in Gath - I don't like Joni Mitchell. I just don't take to anything jazz-like. Everyone liked 'Joni' when I was young, but I just could not ever hear appealing tunes and melodies in her music.

JM is not one of my major favorites, but she is an awesome talent. It's like Paganini--one might not really like his compositions but his virtuosity can't be denied. Anyway, though, Julie Byrne doesn't sound like her at all. Much simpler.

I'm so out of it re music (and always have been) that the only Joni Mitchell song that comes to mind is "Both Sides Now", and then just the version done by Judy Collins. I think Collins tried to make it more a tune anyone could sing, or at least hum along to.

Well, that's definitely her most well-known song, and it's a gem in the introspective moony girl line. Which is not my favorite line, but it's beautifully crafted.

I was going to say, re Grumpy's comment, that she (Grumpy) must be thinking of Mitchell's somewhat later, jazzy albums. They're definitely short on memorable tunes. But Clouds, which is the one on which Both Sides Now appears and is earlier than those jazzy ones, is very tuneful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m_t3_1vbX8

I tried the Joni Mitchell and its no good. I don't like it. I like Julie Byrne. Listened to it cleaning the house. I have 7 grad students coming to watch Wild Strawberries. Never seen it before!

I can see not liking the Joni Mitchell song as a matter of taste. It’s not my favorite kind of music either. But surely not because it isn’t tuneful. Just as a melody it ranks with any of Paul McCartney’s.

I’ll be interested in hearing what y’all think of Wild Strawberries.

I used to know somebody who pronounced strawberry to rhyme with robbery. It annoyed me unreasonably and I wish I could forget it.

Im sure the fault is in me, not in the song. I cannot hear any melody in it. It just seems to go on and on.

We enjoyed Wild Strawberries. There seemed to be healing and grace in it. It was very depressing and miserable, but it had those spots of light

It’s been a while since I saw it but I seem to remember it ending on a note of redemption and reconciliation.

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