Juliana Daugherty - Light

by Brian Thompson Rating:9 Release Date:2018-06-01
Juliana Daugherty - Light
Juliana Daugherty - Light

Charlottesville singer-songwriter Juliana Daugherty has yet to make her mark on the music world, but she is well on her way. Studying at a musical conservatory before earning her MFA in poetry and cutting her teeth in the Virginia folk scene, Daugherty has developed the ability to approach her craft from both the emotional and analytical angles. Light, her first feature-length album, is the sort of heartbreaking pronouncement that music fans dream of uncovering.

Juliana Daugherty has all the trappings of a folk singer, but she certainly isn’t to be included with the coffeeshop open mic crowd. With the spirit of indie rock influencing her lush, eerie reveries and sorrowful lullabies, she takes the minimalist beauty of silky acoustic guitars and adds in electronic touches, often sounding like an early Angel Olsen record whirling through the palatial cosmos. There’s a deeply affecting sadness in her lonesome wail, dazzlingly showcased on tracks like “Baby Teeth” and “California” that are sure to stop the listener dead in their tracks. Even the uptempo numbers – like the animated “Easier” – burn with the urgency of melancholy.

From the alluringly haunting dreamscape of “Player” to the frenzied plucking of “Revelation” to the rhythmic hand drums of the album’s expansive title track, Daugherty’s chilling voice seems to effortlessly jive with any atmosphere it enters. She bends and stretches each syllable to fit her ethereal cadence, making her a deftly enchanting vocalist. Not unlike the way it’s impossible to mistake Joni Mitchell or Chan Marshall for another singer, Daugherty has such a distinct style that sets her tracks apart from others of their ilk.

Much like peers Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, Juliana Daugherty examines her own mental health woes as a way of diminishing their grasp on her psyche. These intimate, world-wearied tracks are at once revelations and ruminations. From the opening verse of “Player,” she spends the album reflecting on loss and hopelessness. Daugherty resists the urge to romanticize despair, but she makes no bones about working through her grief through her music.

Up until its final moments, Light is a remarkably immense record, yet one that’s entirely unassuming. “When you finally pack your bags / I will summon all I have / Just to keep my mouth from opening,” Daugherty surmises on heartrending album closer “Wave.” Through her hushed vulnerability, she has allowed the listener to peek into her disquieted mind, transforming deeply personal experiences into universal truths in the process. With a debut this agonizingly poignant, Daugherty has already carved a place among the stiff competition of her most empathetic peers.

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