Sometimes, the space between notes is just as important as the music and the melody. Sometimes, it’s in those silences – less than the blink of an eye, less than a heartbeat – in which a song can truly come to life and flourish because it has room to breathe, and then room to grow. ‘The Window Is The Dream’ – the second album from Austin, Texas-based songwriter Jana Horn – is full of such spaces, and its gorgeous songs tentatively bloom around them, like ten springs waiting for the longest winter to finally be over.
Though she’s usually categorised as a folk singer, even on 2022’s acclaimed ‘Optimism’, it wasn’t quite as straightforward as that. That record’s songs flirted with the genre slightly – or rather, pushed teasingly at its boundaries. This one doesn’t break through entirely, either – it’s soothing and lilting like folk is, but at times its also decidedly, deliberately, delightfully weird.
Opener ‘Leaving Him’ is imbued with the occasional tender, jazzy flourishes, filling in the gaps when necessary – but only when necessary – while her while her beautiful voice hangs in the air like a light mist, almost invisible but very much present in the atmosphere. That’s a pattern that repeats on the rest of these songs, whether that’s the almost robotic yet carefree strains of ‘Days Go By’, the glorious, self-aware melancholy of ‘The Dream’ – which sees jazzy guitar combine with a tense almost post-folk melody – or the sublime ‘In Between’, on which those miniscule lulls between the notes inflate to the size of an inviting desert sky.
At various points on each of these songs, there’ll be a sound or an instrument that jars and jolts, that sounds like it’s out of place. But that’s very much by design, precisely because they’re given that room to breathe. It all combines to create a record that asserts Horn as an incredible and innovative talent both within the folds of folk and also at the forefront of the genre. It’s a wonderful idiosyncrasy that reaches its zenith on the heartbreaking, heartbroken defeated resignation of closing track ‘The Way It Is’, a song full of sighs on an album full of spaces that deserve to heard.
Words: Mischa Pearlman