Simple or not.
Johanna Warren, numun
FOR FANS OF: Nadia Reid, Laura Marling, C. Duncan
There’s something endearing about simple poetry. I’m a fan of brilliant, extended metaphors, carefully-constructed, mind-bending lyrical twists that carry a listener on a journey through a genius brain. But I’m also infatuated with the simple human expressions of feeling that often come from singer-songwriters who take something small and make it bloom into something larger. On her album numun, Johanna Warren performs this task with grace and warmth. Beginning with the stripped-down “Black Moss,” Warren does nothing more complicated than explore loneliness and death, two extremely loaded topics whose universality provide a great entry point for beauty. Things get more complicated on the sumptuous “True Colors” and in the guitar plucking on “Figure 8,” but lyrically, it’s accessible and sweet without disengaging the listener’s heart.
Health&Beauty, No Scare
FOR FANS OF: Dirty Projectors, Buke & Gase
I’m going to level with you: Health&Beauty sound a LOT like Dirty Projectors. If you played No Scare in a group and said it was a new Dirty Projectors album, I doubt anyone in the room would call you a liar. That said, Dirty Projectors’ unique and challenging sound is one that’s rarely imitated in indie rock, and to their credit, Health&Beauty adds one element that Dirty Projectors have never implemented with total success: A shuddering low-end. The rhythm section is as much the draw here as Dirty Projectors’ guitar work and vocal novelty are the draw for them. “Back to the Place” features blissfully mixed drums, while the bass thrums excellently on “Wartime,” a song which also features a wonderful transition from aggro-indie-rock to a grand, slide-guitar pinned beauty jam. The album is not without its difficult moments. In particular, the first half of “Beyond Beyonce” invites hard rock sludge to the otherwise upbeat and pretty proceedings. But that song also evinces one of the best elements of Health&Beauty: The sense of sonic journey. Songs are not static and simplistic, but complex and rich. It’s a fair bet if a song starts to bore you, it’s a matter of moments before another thrilling change breathes life into the whole affair.