In an era defined by rising temperatures and looming nuclear devastation, the very concept of sanctuary has seemed to implode. Thankfully, Julie Byrne drifted into our collective consciousness in 2014 with debut LP Rooms with Windows and Walls, an airy and thoroughly confident foundation of star-bright acoustic arpeggios and bildungsroman wisdom. This year’s Not Even Happiness assumed an even more ethereal tone, a cosmic Xanax of zen acceptance and soothing melodies. Its nine tracks meld into a Everything’s-Going-To-Be-Alright medley, which appropriately serves as the theme of the album. The title offers a bitingly potent philosophy, proposing that solely pursuing delight is, at best, misguided and personally stunting at worst. Life and all of its hurdles can yield all manner of virtues; resolve, wisdom, character, each attribute embodied gorgeously by Byrne. It’s the most relevant album of the year not by what it addresses, but in its universal capacity to contextualize and heal.
That metaphysical aura of sanctuary embraced the literal when Byrne visited Portland’s Old Church late last month, where songs “Melting Grid” and “Follow My Voice” echoed throughout the cavernous nave. Johanna Warren opened, offering a slightly more foreboding, but equally enchanting, take on pastoral odes. (Standout banter from her set: “Pixies will fuck you up.”) Check out Sean Edgar’s pictures from the event in the gallery above. Julie Byrne will tour in the UK later this month.