"I've been called a heartbreaker, for doing justice to my own." On her second album, Byrne expands her palette and enriches her singular methodology. The setting is all at once familiar and then, in an instant, anything but. Here is folk music reimagined.
Tenderly, expertly picked guitar supports the voice: Byrne doesn't so much sing as exhale and her unforced delivery serves to mesmerise. The elementary nature of the songs disguises a shrewd compositional sense. Not Even Happiness eschews conventional melody and instead – like the very best of Nick Drake – builds atmosphere and drama by letting songs drift free, breathe, unfurl. See how The Sea As It Glides navigates a seemingly improvised path. This is an album of rare beauty.
If that's not reason enough for listening in, here's another: Not Even Happiness is the first release on Basin Rock, a new independent label based in Todmorden on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border. In March of next year, they follow up with the new album from New Zealand's Nadia Reid, whose 2015 debut was another beguiling showcase for stripped-back songcraft. Northern enterprise: support it.
Listen to: Follow My Voice, Natural Blue