Release Date: May 19, 2015
Record label: Team Love Records
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk, Alternative Folk
Johanna Warren’s second album passes like weather. The Portland-based musician’s debut, 2013’s Fates, was a neat package of polished folk songs that shared an atmosphere with Iron & Wine, the band she used to share a stage with as a backup singer. Though its songs are based on wholly organic instruments, like guitar, voice, and a few woodwinds, n?m?n detaches itself from the bucolic charm that haloes the words “singer-songwriter.” Warren twists more rhythmic urgency, complexity, and depth into this album, linking to the motions of natural forces much bigger than herself.
Johanna Warren’s sophomore album, n?m?n, has a straightforward songwriting ancestry, less influenced by her time performing with the likes of Iron & Wine and Natalie Merchant than it is by listening to singer/songwriter heavyweights like Joni Mitchell and Elliott Smith. Likewise, the album’s literal lineage can be traced to a Kickstarter campaign, while her lyrical inspirations and guiding forces are hardly veiled in Warren’s lyrics or in her interviews. But like the moon and stars in the sky that never fail to impress with their brightness no matter how well we have their movements mapped out, Warren’s music has the power to also shine through predictability.
Two years after releasing her solo debut, the atmospheric and gentle Fates, Johanna Warren sharpens her still low-key and haunting sound for the more present-feeling (and tad less folky) indie folk on Numun. Dedicated to the moon and nature's cycles, the album is often about time and moving through moments, with lyrics that are introspective more than about heavenly bodies ("I'm not sure, but it I think I used to be much smarter/Back when I used to walk instead of run"), and, more generally, spiritual ("Myriad are the guiding voices/If you take the road less traveled"). Musically, Warren is known for her use of elements like complex time signatures and nonstandard chord progressions within ethereal, acoustic settings, and that's all in play here, as on the polyrhythmic "True Colors" and in the floating, arpeggiated chord modulations of "The Wheel" (also with additive meters).
Johanna Warren's nūmūn is an occasionally non-simpatico mix of timeless pastoral psych à la legends Linda Perhacs and Vashti Bunyan, and '90s Lilith stalwarts such as Natalie Merchant. There are a few gorgeous acoustic arrangements, but it only really clicks when it's leaning more toward the former ("Black Moss," "Noise") than the latter. (www.johannawarren.com) .