Album name: Perfect View
Artist name: Libby Johnson
Released: 23 February 2010
Label: Wrong Records
ZME Rating: 8/10
I want to preface this review with a plea, and a thank you. You see, this Libby Johnson album – quite a good album, as you’ve yet to find out – is, following Nite Nite and Phantom Family Halo, the third album in a row I’ve reviewed which has been sent my way by the lovely press folks over at Crash Avenue. And there’s a fourth and fifth on the way. So a lovely wet kiss to those people. But a harsh slap around the jowels and shoulders to every other record company ever. Please send me your albums. Send them to me and I will review them. I might even, perchance, be nice to them. But there’s just no way of knowing unless you send me that download link, or that promo copy, is there? No, there isn’t. Fix that. Fix it up real nice.
Anyway. On to business. And what wonderful business it is: Libby Johnson has crafted a really rather lovely album in Perfect View, and one that sort of caught me off guard. What at first glance appears to be little more than your average supermarket-brand indie-folk songstress nonsense turns out to be substantially more than that. Which is to say, she is an indie-folk songstress, but she’s quite good at it, thanks.
It might take a few goes of it before you’ll be thoroughly convinced of that, though. It certainly won’t have grabbed you straight off, since the opening track – the titular “Perfect View” – seems pretty, but pretty forgettable. That is, until you find yourself at work over the next week, humming the sweet, gentle melody to yourself as you laboriously attach price stickers to children’s shoes like the good little worker drone that you are even if nobody ever shows any appreciation for it and anyway what do I care I hate this job.
Happily, things get far more striking as we progress. “Rare and Beautiful” is a splendid piece, with some subtle vocal effects and some tasty guitar accents. It’s atmospheric and soothing, like a skinny dip in a tropical river, but without the crushing shame. This is swiftly followed by the sweet country twang of “Be Your Revelator”, which is probably the catchiest song on the record, and the closest you can come to sounding like Shania Twain without handing in your credibility to a special inspector. “20 Superheroes” takes on a harder edge, but suffers slightly from Johnson’s inherently pleasant delivery. It’s like watching Elmo trying to convincly portray as a hard-ass cop, though sadly nowhere near as hilarious. On a related note: make that Elmo thing happen, someone.
Also noteworthy is pianee ballad “Blue Dress”, which is exceedingly gorgeous, and tinged with a dark loneliness. It seems to be written from the perspective of an absentee mother, but I can’t really be very specific, because: no lyric sheet. Actually, I rarely took any notice of what the woman was singing, but this album is beautiful regardless, because the melodies somehow seem to sound like leaving home for good, and coming home after a long time. Shakespeare might have invented the word “bittersweet” for this album had he not inconveniently already done that, and then died, four hundred years before its release. The bast.
The best recommendation I can give is that Perfect View sounds like the album Jenny Lewis might make in a few years’ time. Listen to Johnson’s “Sister You’ll Be Back Again” after Lewis’ “Next Messiah” or “See Fernando”, and see if you can’t trace the similarities. I like Jenny Lewis a lot. In much the same way, I like this album a lot. So they’re also alike in that way.
(See, record industry? I can say nice things about the things you want to sell. I know you’re in the process of systematically destroying yourself in various ways right now, but I can help soften the blow of your inevitable, self-inflicted destruction with some, like, positive energy and that. Y’know – assuming the music’s not crap. Send me things!)
TRACKS GET LISTED:
1 – Perfect View
2 – Rare And Beautiful
3 – Be Your Revelator
4 – Being Your Stranger
5 – Blue Dress
6 – 20 Superheroes
7 – Coming Up For Air
8 – Sister You’ll Be Back Again
9 – You’ve Got Your Own Magic
10 – I Know You Know