Folk artist Julie Byrne’s sophomore release Not Even Happiness is a remarkable success, an enrapturing, pastoral slice of melancholy. Byrne seems to be aiming to capture the more astral side of late-60s folk, channeling the peace and reflection of legendary acoustic artists like Nick Drake and Townes Van Zandt. Her deep, breathy voice works well to deliver her evocative tales of beautiful vistas and deep introspection, and her gorgeous acoustic finger-picking is remarkably hypnotic. Songs like “Sleepwalker” and “Natural Blue” manage to captivate with nothing but her voice and guitar, while others introduce more instruments into the still, sparse mix. Stand-out closing track “I Live Now As a Singer” features some positively haunting synth chords underpinning Byrne’s gorgeous siren-song, and “Sea As It Glides” introduces a relaxed slide guitar, to wonderful effect. At a lean 33 minutes, the album never comes close to overstaying its welcome, and while Byrne may not be doing anything particularly new or original, it’s hard to complain when the end result is so beautiful.
– Reagan Jones