Album Review: Julie Byrne’s “Not Even Happiness” Will Make You Cry From Its Beauty

Julie Byrne’s Not Even Happiness is gorgeous, and proves something very hard to believe: there is beauty in sadness. When you see someone crying in pain, it can gut you with the helplessness and hopelessness it stirs inside of you. Yet, the compassion and empathy you feel is stunningly human. Even your mourning and longing for another person or dream there is beauty because to cry for love means you have known it. Not Even Happiness shows the odd relationship between love and loss.

Not Even Happiness is an album destined for a “good cry” or a rainy, meditative day. Its melancholy drips like rain running down a window pane, as you look out at the world from the blurring window it seems to muddling together in hues of pastel blues. The pretty but peculiar image image moves you to do something you hardly ever do: be silent.  Not Even Happiness is like watching a live portrait of the and keeping silent so your mind can absorb every movement, sound, and feeling that comes to you. You, literally, want to take in the voice of Julie Byrne with its depth and weightiness that reminds me of one of my favorite singers of all time: The Velvet Underground’s Nico.

For me, Nico is a songstress you turn to when you need someone to say “Its okay to not be okay.” Thus, finding Julie Byrne is like finding the “second coming” of this message that, at times, does not feel approved. Not Even Happiness feels like it was written with a pen of yearning and filled with ink meant to ease the desperate desires and depressions we write for ourselves. “Melting Grid”, “All The Land Glimmered”,  and “I Live Now As A Singer” drips with longing for something more or better. Byrne has a voice that exemplifies the quiet, gnawing existentialism that plagues human beings. Who has not questioned, “Is there more to life?” or “Could I have done better”. Life can feel like an intense experience when you constantly challenge whether you are doing the best you can, and Byrne has the soothing, sentimental voice to both acknowledge that challenge and heal it. She never belts or yelps or does any vocal play that shows power or is used to blatantly show a frustrated emotion. Instead, she sings with a soft, curious tone that barely leaps in range to show the wounds and wonders she carries for the life she is making for herself. Yet, when you hear Byrne’s voice, you will understand why she does not use many vocal tricks. Her voice has enough glory in and of itself, which makes her vivid lyrics seem like watercolored painting before your eyes.

 Honestly, Not Even Happiness feels like still- frames of bustling roadside diners, stars over high deserts, wildflowers of the California coast, and the irresolvable mysteries of love and change. Such pictures make sense as Byrne wrote the album as a recollection of her life thus far, and the struggles she has overcome to try and find herself while already knowing her calling: to be a singer. It is ironic to know where you want and need to go, while also having no idea where you are, but this irony is so common and human. For me, humanity is a paradox of beauty and ugliness, lost and found, and love and hate. Yet, Byrne has managed to put into wise lyrics the loveliness of things like ugliness, loss, and hate by showing there very definition stems from the lack of something greater. Thus, you can only witness the less of life if you have already seen its greater. Thanks Julie Byrne for the whimsical thought, and to buy Not Even Happiness on January 27 Click Here