At only seventeen years of age, the Bournemouth, England singer/songwriter Julia Hanlon sounds wise beyond her years. She released her first record Shades of Green back in February. It’s acoustic folk with some pretty melodies and a mesmerizing power. Hanlon recalls some of the folk greats of the last decade or so, amongst them PJ Harvey, Cat Power, Joanna Newsom to more experimental acts like Alice Boman.
Shades of Green opens with “The Water” which begins to exhibit her ominous and beautiful orchestration from the very beginning. We get a haunting piano melody, a very taut guitar riff, and some doldrumatic synths. But what come out most in the song is Hanson’s unmistakably powerful vocals. Though what’s interesting here is that her tone is almost one of nonchalance as she pours her heart out with deeply sublime lyrics.
This comes through even more clearly on the haunting half-rocker “Garden of Eden” on which she sizes up the first man wailing “I’ll stand with Adam face to face.” The image rendered and the slightly raucous buildup of jangly guitar as it’s happening is quite a powerful moment on the record. Hanlon sees little use in conforming to writing structured songs.
She meanders away for nearly five minutes on “Own Kind” but it is a meandering that makes one want to follow, to listen to her like she is some kind of mystic with secrets to dispel to those who listen carefully.
She does it with even more precision on the nascent “Shades of Green” which sounds just as good, if not better, than much of what the “indie” record labels are peddling these days. The difference being that Hanlon sings from a still pure of heart perspective that hasn’t yet been manipulated by the drudgery of having to appear to be “cool.”
Shades Of Green may evoke growth and verdant images of lush forests but its themes could not be farther from these pleasantries. For this reason Shades of Green sounds best late at night, its hushed tones traveling through quiet rooms where everyone else is asleep. It proved to me that there is always unheard potential out in the world just waiting to be heard by the right sets of ears.
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