“Byrne’s voice is so delicate it sounds like she’s harmonizing with a breeze, her songs so transfixing — the sun it setting, and the magic-hour light is warm and enveloping — that those of us who’ve gathered to watch her are sitting slack-jawed.” Spin
“Her version of folk, a whisper bordering on an ambient hum, will be familiar to fans early Cat Power or Grouper, as will her ability to mine the uncanny from the everyday stuff lying around…Byrne’s album sits at the nexus where one melts gorgeously into the other.” Pitchfork
Sometimes it can take years to find your calling. Not for Julie Byrne; whose power of lyrical expression and musical nous seems inborn. Often what comes naturally cannot be driven by speed and time. Julie’s second album, Not Even Happiness, has evolved at its own pace. It spans recollections of bustling roadside diners, the stars over the high desert, the aching weariness of change, the wildflowers of the California coast, and the irresolvable mysteries of love. Her new album vividly archives what would have otherwise been lost to the road, and in doing so, Byrne exhibits her extraordinarily innate musicality.
Some of the songs on Not Even Happiness took years of fine tuning to reach their fruition. If you asked her why the follow up to 2014’s Rooms With Walls and Windows has taken so long, you’d be greeted with a bewildered expression melted into a smile - as though the strangest question had just been asked. “Writing comes from a natural process of change and growth. It took me up to this point to have the capacity to express my experience of the time in my life that these songs came from.”
Julie Byrne has counted Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans and Northampton, Massachusetts as her transient homes in recent years. For now, she’s settled in New York City, moonlighting as a seasonal urban park ranger in Central Park. Whether witnessing the Pacific Northwest for the first time (‘Melting Grid’), the morning sky in the mountains of Boulder (‘Natural Blue’), or a journey fragrant with rose water; reading Frank O’Hara aloud from the passenger’s seat during a drive through the Utah desert into the rainforest of Washington State ('The Sea As It Glides'), Not Even Happiness is Julie’s beguilingly ode to the fringes of life.
“The title of the album comes from a letter I wrote to a friend after a trip to Riis Park’s ‘The People’s Beach’...it was the first warm afternoon of the year. I walked alongside the Atlantic as the Earth came alive for the sun. There was a palpable sense of emergence to everything. I felt it in myself too, and remember thinking I would trade that feeling for nothing…not even happiness.”
Not Even Happiness offers a bigger picture to its predecessor through a wider exploration of instruments and atmospherics, revealing an artist who has grown in confidence over time. This form of self-evolution permeates through the track titles, as the album opens with, ‘Follow My Voice’ and ends with, ‘I Live Now as a Singer’.” “Those two songs are the nearest to my heart, without hesitation. This is an album with a far stronger sense of self, and fidelity to self than the last,” she says.
Julie Byrne is taking Not Even Happiness on the road throughout 2017.