Posts Tagged ‘Johanna warren’

I’ve been thinking of life as one big roleplaying game,” Johanna Warren offers when asked why she chose to title her new album after a Dungeons & Dragons reference. “There’s chance, there’s choice, and there’s alignment—what forces in the universe do I choose to align myself with?”

Chaotic Good is Warren’s fifth full-length album and first for Wax Nine/Carpark Records. It represents a moment of rupture in the singer-songwriter’s career as she transitions away from the quiet, folk-adjacent work that defined her early solo albums with a bold statement piece that demonstrates the breadth of her ambition. Here, Warren flits between crushing admissions set to spare piano solos and muscular declarations of independence that have more in common with grunge acts of bygone years than anything we’ve heard from Warren in the past. “The last few years I’ve had an urge to change my name, or create some alter-ego,” she says. “But I’ve come to realize that ‘Johanna’ is already just a character. We think we know who we are based on what’s already happened, but we’re allowed to make new choices.” The oceanic, soothing single “Bed of Nails” illustrates that realization perfectly when Warren sings: “I tried a little bit too hard to be myself/It turned me into something else.”

Recording Chaotic Good was an exercise in self-reinvention. Warren decided to produce the album on her own, borrowing recording equipment from a friend to do much of the preliminary tracking alone in a garage. She enlisted a few key collaborators to fully enliven her vision, most notably former Sticklips bandmates Chris St. Hilaire and Jim Bertini. On the raucously resilient “Part of It,” Warren is joined by her musical brethren as she addresses a noncommittal narcissist and—a trademark of Warren’s work—the narrator’s complicity in her own suffering: “Don’t look at me like I’m the one holding you back/and I won’t look at you like you have something I lack.” Adding to the album’s dynamism is the fact that it took shape over the course of four years in studios across the United States while Warren was touring her most recent albums Gemini I and II. Warren uses words like “patchwork” and “scrapbook” to describe Chaotic Good; it is a collection of sonic snapshots that transport her to specific places in time with each listen.

“This album is about learning how to be with myself after a lifetime of codependent relationships,” Warren says. You can hear that especially well on “Twisted,” which finds her confronting a former lover, and ultimately, letting them go. “I’m a warrior, but I give up,” Warren howls, the surrounding production warping and distorting as her raw vocal crests to an acidic scream. Though her lyrics are resigned, her delivery is anything but. It is a moment of total abandon, when the multitudinous aspects of a personality coalesce to form something at once dazzling and monstrous. “Chaotic Good is a metamorphosis,” Warren says. “It’s my phoenix moment. Everything I’ve done before was just building the funeral pyre.”

released May 1st, 2020

Music and lyrics by Johanna Warren
Produced by Johanna Warren

Johanna Warren – vocals, guitar, piano, flute, clarinet, synths
Chris St. Hilaire – electric guitar, drums, bass, percussion
Jim Bertini – drums, percussion, bass, synths
Eric Margan – bass, cello, flute, synth
David Rothon – pedal steel

For Johanna Warren, spirituality and humanity are inextricable from each other: “it’s all energy,” as she writes. The Portland singer-songwriter has been around a while her voice, clear as water, has shadowed the records of Iron & Wine, Natalie Merchant and Julie Byrne. But she broke out on her own in 2015 with her sophomore album, nūmūn, which was about transformation and healing in concert with the cycles of the moon. Come February 2018, Warren will release a new album, “Gemini II”, the twin album of 2016’s Gemini I. The first track to be released, “Here To Tell,” tells of one man’s liminal reverie and its implications for humanity.

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All songs by Johanna Warren
Recorded and mixed by Bella Blasko
Co-produced by Bella Blasko & Johanna Warren
Mastered by Sarah Register

Johanna Warren – Vocals, guitars, bass, percussion, flute, harmonium, mellotron, vibes, synths
Bella Blasko – Vocals, piano, organ, mellotron, synths
Jim Bertini – Drums & percussion on Track 6 and 9
Eli Walker – Bass on Track 6
Chris St. Hilaire – Percussion on Track 9

Photo: Allyce Andrew

An offering of praise for the late great master. Hey beautiful people,
I tend to be pretty quiet about celebrity deaths… but I’ve got some words about this one. 

I was raised on Tom Petty. Trapped in the car on long family road trips, his music made me feel colors. His songs felt like peepholes into a great wild world I knew I would one day be exploring myself… and he gave some good pointers. Every time I hear those records, no matter where I am or what’s going on, I feel as though I’m in the company of a dear old friend.

More than just being obviously one of the greatest songwriters ever, Petty was a rebel with a cause who took several bold and very public stands for what he believed in, resisting record label executives who wanted to use him as a pawn in their game. If you haven’t seen “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” the epic Heartbreakers documentary directed by Peter Bogdanovich, I highly recommend it!

To honor the life and death of this super rad being, on the night of his passing, I recorded a live video of my cover of his song “You Got Lucky.” Best Wishes Johanna Warren.

Ghosts are one of the oldest and most obvious metaphors there are — our pasts come back to quite literally haunt us, our memories and regrets and traumas manifesting themselves with a frighteningly familiar face. In Chinese Buddhism and folk religion, hungry ghosts are the spirits of the greedy and the selfish reborn as ravenous creatures, cursed with mouths so tiny that they can never sate themselves. On “Hungry Ghost,” Johanna Warren transposes that concept from the purely spiritual realm to the personal, lamenting, “They say that what you give is what you get/ I gave you everything and all I got is a lot of regret,” stretching out the last syllable in “regret” like a wistful sigh. Her voice sounds as ancient and timeless as ever, but the music around it sounds more earthbound than usual, granted weight and heft by Jim Bertini’s drums and flickers of almost psychedelic guitar. “The thing is, I try to forget it but it’s here to stay,” she sings, and so is her music, its presence felt even after the last echo dies down

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Johanna Warren – Vocals, guitars, bass, percussion, flute, harmonium, mellotron, vibes, synths
Bella Blasko – Vocals, piano, organ, mellotron, synths
Jim Bertini – Drums on Track 2
Jane Scarpantoni – Cello on track 9

releases September 21st, 2016
All songs by Johanna Warren
Recorded and mixed by Bella Blasko
Co-produced by Bella Blasko & Johanna Warren

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Johanna Warren is a songwriter based Portland, Oregon. Her new album, n?m?n, will be released worldwide on Team Love Records May 19, 2015. In Johanna’s words, “This album is dedicated to the moon: by honoring her phases, I am restoring balance to my body and making peace with the cycles of all natural things; and to the divine feminine: by collectively cultivating her, may we restore balance to our world.”

Although Warren has lent her vocal talents to artists like Natalie Merchant and Iron & Wine, she identifies primarily as a songwriter. An intuitively self-taught guitarist, she channels powerful songs in weird time signatures and melancholic open tunings, weaving adept finger-picking with acrobatic vocal lines and carefully crafted poetry, in reverence of her patron songwriting saints Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake.

Johanna Warren Approved pic

Approaching music as a potent healing modality, Warren cultivates and honors the physically healing properties of sound and the spiritually healing powers of artistic expression. One cold winter evening in the waning weeks of 2014, Johanna and her touring partner Mitski (Double Double Whammy) passed through the Team Love gallery space in New Paltz, New York. Johanna invited the crowd to sit down on the gallery floor for her set. She requested the lights be dimmed as she lit a white candle and burned some sage. With only the candlelight to illuminate her face and separate her from the audience, she opened herself to a crowd that was swiftly transformed from unsure and vaguely uncomfortable to enraptured and mesmerized. These moments are the signature of Johanna’s live performances, in which she consciously strives to provide listeners with a portal to an alternate realm in which healing can occur. Sound and light, scent, physical space, and the web of subtle energies created by a room full of human bodies are all elements of the universe that Johanna controls and shapes.

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She performs the same delicate manipulations within the world of n?m?n, an oceanic voyage from dark to light and back that is rich in sensual language, riveting self-reflective candor and surreal sonic landscapes (created entirely with acoustic instruments and found objects played by Johanna and her engineer Bella Blasko in an empty apartment unit). However, despite stepping into the role of High Priestess for the sake of creating art and facilitating group experiences, she warns us not to attach to any divisive illusions: “You say I emanate some strange magnetic power, but don’t be drawn to me—I may be here today, but soon black moss will cover over my dead body.” Whether singing about her own mortality (“Black Moss”), updating the tedium of the party that Patti Smith first told us about (“This Is Why”) or daring one to imagine a world that transcends our notions of “the duality of wrong and right” (“True Colors”), Johanna Warren is a songwriter of daring vision. Her forthcoming album n?m?n flies into timeless space, focusing our gaze deep into the vastness of the heavens.

All of Johanna Warren’s songs feel like they’re flying — it’s a sensation she explored on her 2013 debut, Fates, and perfected with Nūmūn, the immensely satisfying sophomore effort that brought her widespread attention this year. In addition to her engaging talk of dualities and astrology and New Age rituals, Warren is lifted up by her voice, which takes the form of a majestic and wonderful flutter

Johanna Warren’s new album, nūmūn, came out May 19th, 2015 on Team Love Records.

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