Juanita Stein pinches stardust on America

Juanita Stein - AmericaAustralian-born singer songwriter Juanita Stein toes the line between dreamland and reality, describing her debut solo album as such: “The record is an ode to the dark heart of America, of times gone and times to come.” Stein’s America is beautiful and cunning from start to finish, sea to shining sea. The album title frames Stein with grace and ironical poise, all without jeering the promise land, a place that has all but cut off its nose to spite its face. The record itself is self-reflexive, though when it’s not too busy snubbing the fruited plains, the album paradoxically creates a safe haven where dreams can exist, without risk of spoiling or finding their hopeful noses buried in a pile of rotten status quos.

Stein says this of America: “I've forever idealised American life - growing up in Australia we were fed the American dream through film and television. The dichotomy between what was real and a dream is forever intriguing to me.” That melancholic feeling that you might try and banish from the pit of your stomach is real - a sidecar in the journey of America. Stein weaves in personal experiences of her own, keeping some of it nebulous in the good form of gonzo. The moment the record begins, we hear harmonics of a chord once struck on piano, ringing out—kind of like relinquishing a feeling, only to find that the impact sustains indefinitely.

The album was masterfully recorded and produced by Gus Seyffert (Beck, Ryan Adams) in Los Angeles. The songwriting and storytelling are wrought with emotion, and the sound and vision match the equanimity disposed on the record. Evidently, the good has been imagined, the bad is real, and the ugly has been deemed beautiful. Stein conjures this socioeconomic snapshot in the following depiction of the album: “Dusty trails, a whimsical 50s suburbia and the haze of the 1960s.” The leadoff track pays homage to its chosen warrior, Florence Owens Thompson: “Florence you’re a leader, there’s not many of us born. You’re a lover, fighter, mother, keeper of the dawn.”

America nestles warm and vibrant textures together, somehow managing to start a fire in the rain. Atop lightly strummed acoustic guitars, Stein harmonizes with herself, and as an enchanting vortex of falsettos erupt (sounding nearly like a slide guitar), Stein’s timbre wallows in clarity. The mid-frequencies of the piano act as a centerpiece to the leslie-soaked organ registers and resplendent electric guitars, sitting nicely at the table. Entering the ring of psych folk giants like Big Thief and Angel Olsen, Stein's style is very much in vogue, yet cherished in its own right. Putting the contemporaries aside for a minute, Stein clarifies her influences: “The music of Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Lee and Nancy and Patsy Cline all informed my musical sensibilities. They opened up this wide screen universe for me.”

Release: 28th July 2017, Nude Records


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