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Not Even Happiness

The first release on new Todmorden label Basin Rock, here are nine foam-soft songs of this American musician’s nomadic life, shaded with the blues of passing skies, glimpsed oceans and treasured sunrises.

But for an album about movement it’s her longing to stay still that comes through strongest. Her lonely, sleepy voice reveals a weariness of the road. This is not a record about looking out at those skies, seas and morning roads, but about looking inward during the journey, exploring her own sense of self, "searching for an anchor… seeking god within".

For all its bright and jolly 60s folk fingerpicking and opening bars as inviting as shore-tickling waves, Byrne’s voice arrives each time to pull everything down, rejecting adventure for a warm fireside. Conceptually it’s solid, this urge to stay grounded, but musically it can be hard to enjoy over the length of the album. Though warm, close and intimate, her airy low register becomes dreary, less arresting than Sibylle Baier or Vashti Bunyan, and Byrne’s introspection isn't always relatable.

Other than the welcome synth sounds on closer ‘I Live Now As A Singer’, the album feels low on ideas and a little too empty in its simplicity. Byrne wants to lay her hat down once and for all, though melodically there’s not enough to hang your hat on here, and whilst the watery blues make for a coherent theme the overall result is rather too wishy-washy.

Nat Loftus

by Now Then Manchester