Album Reviews: Julie Byrne, Holly Walker, Creeper
Julie Byrne – The Greater Wings
– Buffalo, NY
Like a spirit of nature itself, Julie Byrne is one of these artists that seem to simply sing and command arrangements that perfectly fit them at all times. The intense emotions and sense of detail in these productions however show Byrne at the top of her game, focused on the micro and macro of her work to create a wholly involving album. From the outset of “The Greater Wings,” Byrne veers between intimate vocals and the ethereal wave of her strings’ rising power on every verse, particularly as the build both amount to a bold sunny punch right as the song finishes. There’s a darkness amidst the wonder on “Moonless,” as Byrne suggests an immense emptiness, as an emotion explodes into a magical experience of life and time itself. The wash of synths amongst the strings creates a glowing beauty on “Summer Glass” as that feeling of forever becomes a haven, rather than a nightmare as it did on “Moonless.” Sweeping you away like the wind, “Lightning Comes Up from the Ground” creates a surreal sonic moment as the earthly sounds, and more unplaceable instrumentation collide into a visceral audio lattice that connect in the song’s soothing chords, and Byrne’s reassuring delivery.
Sophie Lukacs – Bamako
Inspired by time and studying in Mali, Sophie Lukacs has made a record that bridges their many musical worlds into one. “Yafa” opens the album on a spritely rush from the kora, among other entrancing string choices here, to give a hypnotizing blend of folk and otherworldly mystique. While a bit more straight in its pop, the rhythmic swing and percussive plucking keep “Falling” a unique track to Lukacs’ style and intent on this record. There’s a more danceable drive on “Forama” as the bass and guitar collide in a delicate kind of dance complimentary notes, and filling breaks that play so close together it almost seems like playful competitiveness at play here. With the sax adding its own ecstatic dimension on “Dream of Love,” Lukacs drops another pop-driven track, albeit one with so much richness in its texture and feeling that you’ll sink into that aesthetic wonderland easily.
Holly Walker – Unsung
– London, England
Evoking bits and pieces of so many great artists, you could write an article breaking them all down, Holly Walker feels like a new awakening in art-pop. With a captivating mix of wholly unique timbres and kinetic performances, this album is potentially the last great gem released this year, and shouldn’t be slept on. “How Can I Tell You” starts things on a soulful and stirring ballad that churns on its deep bass and morphing synths, but soars in those magnificent vocal melodies, especially with her dazzling performance of them. There’s instant addictive qualities to the hooks on “Storylines,” as it weaves a wonderful 90s set of riffs through a more sparse and indie-inspired sound. The use of bright harmonies against the more slinking bass on “Lucid Dreaming” lets Walker do her own vocal dances, but it’s really that bouncy shift in the song’s b-section that really gives it a fun pop kick. The grip that “Deep Dark Cosmos” earns on that synth line and voice alone is intense, letting Walker truly play in the void of the track, going from a whisper to an all-out belt to knock you over on a dime.
Alex Whorms – Once, in a Dream
– Hamilton, Ontario
Able to say more with their notes than many can with actual words, Alex Whorms latest effort is a touching trip through the soul. There’s equal parts playful whimsy and brilliance in the sound Whorms elicits on “Photographs” as the piano swerves through so many emotions with sweeping grandeur and scale, that each can feel so immense that they tell a story in that one moment. The melodic hints and trickles on “Faded” deliver a knife to your heart, making the already weighty track hit with heartbreaking power, with each smaller line hitting like a new crack in a once happy time. While at times likes an old-timey photo in musical form, “Sepia” plays with a crooner jazz flower, and seems to want to revel in memories more than be haunted by them. There’s a sense of serenity and explorative joy on “Once, in a Dream,” as Whorms takes you through the woods of ones on mind, and never forgets to show you the roses in that space.
Creeper – Sanguivore
– Southampton, England
Like a bonkers Meat Loaf/Ghost crossover, Creeper delivers a wonderfully theatrical rock album filled with occult darkness and a sense of fun that many acts will try to avoid these days. Like a B-movie of a record in the best way, this is self-aware showmanship trying to make something so entrenched in its genre that it becomes an instant classic by nailing every assignment it sets out for. “Cry to Heaven” delivers that fun 80s smirk, and a bit of “Rocky Horror” silliness, all while the actual rock of the track is firing on all cylinders, unabashedly exploding the brimstone and lava around you. The rushing approach to “Sacred Blasphemy” calls to a bit of Billy Idol and thrashing rock, led by the Devil himself in this catchy banger of a track. The drama in the drops of “Teenage Sacrfice” gives it an entrancing draw, and one the most built for additional stage musical theatrics, to the point you kind of want to see this album adapted based on this song alone. The electronics make a wonderful addition to the mix on “Black Heaven,” as they gain a blood-drenched dance quality to their sound, and they even add a more transfixing element in that harmonically-driven outro.