Have you ever heard of Jolie Holland? Well, you should have. Not only is she an incredible musician with an amazingly soulful voice and style that harkens back to the pre-WWII days of blues and folk, but she
was also one of the first musicians I wrote about way back in the early days of Radio KRUD.
Now I’m not really here to talk about Jolie Holland, but about another musician who reminded me of Jolie Holland and her quaint, folksy style: Kacey Johansing.
Kacey Johansing: Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist
For one thing, Kacey Johansing has that same, old-timey soul in her voice that is reminiscent of great jazz vocalists like Billie Holiday. But there is something a little subtler about her style, so it doesn’t really stand out so strongly as having that old-fashioned quality to it unless you listen closely. She has a slight, unconventional cadence to her singing voice similar to that of Jolie Holland’s or Billie Holiday’s, a cadence that exudes an ethereal, evocative aura that captures the listener in its delicate dreaminess. You can also detect a soft quavering when she sings, which makes her voice even breezier as it flows across your ears.
Now Kacey Johansing’s music may have a sweet sense of antiquity about it, but Many Seasons also exhibits the characteristics of great pop songs. Take Many Season‘s title track for example, which is filled with soaring pop melodies. It begins with a simple yet catchy piano riff that continues throughout the entire song with slight variations as hauntingly tuneful guitars begin to wail with the whale songs of cellos. It’s reminiscent of the epic pop stylings of the Beach Boys in songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows” and more modern tunes like “Brick” by Ben Folds Five.
There are also songs like “Oh, Brother” that are incredibly catchy and loveable in a very traditional, sing-songy sense. From the merry tune of the organ to the joyful, happy-go-lucky whistling after each verse, this song is just a pleasure to listen to. Along with playful, loving lyrics from Kacey Johansing directed to her brother, it’s hard not to come away from this song with a warm feeling in your heart, maybe even a happy tear in your eye.
Then there are more somber songs that still manage to be very pleasant experiences. “Same Old, Same Old” is one such song; it starts off seeming to be incredibly minimalistic with just Kacey Johansing’s vocals softly crooning, “If you stick around, your old habits will wear you down,” backed by a very basic rhythm guitar progression. But as the song continues on, the melodies and instrumentation continue to build until the song reaches a point where it starts to go into full-on rock and roll mode with energy ablaze à la “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but then the track pulls the tone back down again. It’s almost like the song is trying to reach a huge climax that ends up fading away after the rise in action. Given that the song seems to follow the theme of consistently being stuck in an emotionally distressing situation and that these moments of increased musical energy come after the chorus, which goes, “Sometimes I get upset. It helps me forget. Sometimes I get off track. It can bring me back,” it’s like the song itself is evoking these feeling of getting upset and off track only to return to that troubling, as the song title puts it, “Same Old, Same Old” state.
Man, I just took a look back at that last paragraph and realized that it was pretty substantial, at least from my perspective. Do you want to know why? Because Kacey Johansing is an incredible singer, lyricist, composer, guitarist, and pianist and has released an incredible album that evoked a lot of thoughts and feelings out of me. That’s why you should give Many Seasons a chance: it’s an infective, thought-provoking album.. So check it out and keep an eye out for future work by Kacey Johansing. She’s a true talent.