Not Even Happiness

There’s something special about the sun in winter. Its faintness is soothing, and even directly overhead, its warmth is gentle. Julie Byrne’s music is suited to sunny winter days. Her alto, airy voice moves in long, pleasant brush strokes over simple sheets of synth tones or bright, fingerpicked lines, with high notes that cast a pristine, reverby glow. The album is straightforward, a serene depiction from start to finish of Byrne’s easy conversational lines like “The sky, it was such a natural blue” (“Natural Blue”), or “I’ve been sitting in the garden” (“All the Land Glimmered Beneath”). The album’s single, “I Live Now as a Singer,” begins in deep swaths of synth, and rather than build, it gradually unfolds as Byrne delivers an abstract confession, or possibly a confirmation, starting with a spectacular opening line: “There’s no use fighting for me/My heart ain’t in the ring for you.” Instrumentally, the album pushes no boundaries, but lyrically, Byrne shares her own revelations—directly, but gently.