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Sarah June: In Black Robes
In Black Robes 
CD 2010 | Silber 076
13 tracks, 39 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (256 kbps, ~98 megs))

: Listen to the track Cowboy
: Press Release
: Lyrics

Track Listing:
Cowboy, Crossbones in Your Eyes, Judgment Day, From My Window High, The Reaper, Bluesy Melody, Brand of Bitterness, Paper Lantern, In Your Chevrolet, Motown, Sally Go 'Round the Roses, Fencepost, 'Til You Hit the Pavement

The classical framework of Sarah June's guitar playing captures an uncommon style on the enchanting In Black Robes. Her reverbed, child-like vocals and dark lyrics cast light on the shadows of her days in Detroit. Though it's only her voice and a guitar (except for the jazz infused "Brand of Bitterness), June acheives haunting, un-ignorable pieces regarding the reaper, judgement day, skeletons and dreaming in black & white. There will be no talking when she's playing live. NONE!
~ Kenyon Hopkin, Advance Copy

Sarah June, who grew up in Detroit but relocated to San Francisco, sang the melancholy autobiographical meditations of This Is My Letter To The World (2008) in a childish register accompanied only with acoustic guitar. Her bedroom folk music evolved into a more profound personal experience on In Black Robes (Silber, 2010). Simple opener Cowboy presents a slightly neurotic female version of Leonard Cohen, but the most significant aspect of the album lies in her guitar playing. The guitar is the only instrument but delivers a punch comparable to an entire combo. Crossbones in Your Eyes is emblematic of her bluesy anthemic finger-picking, and Judgment Day leverages it to create a soaring and driving hymn.
Her guitar style is rooted in a sophisticated post-modernist interpretation of the tradition. The frenzied syncopated Bluesy Melody displays an affinity of sorts with the black orchestras of the 1920s, while the "femme fatale" kind of torch ballad that is Brand ofBitterness (a rare case of a full band backing her) harks back to smoky lounge jazz of the 1940s. The Reaper borrows the swampy noir feeling of plantation songs, a terrific adaptation of ancestral black music to contemporar white spleen. Her vocals and her guitar work wonders when they mercilessly exploit the darkest blues paradigm, like in the one-two punch of In Your Chevrolet and Motown (first the agonizing mode and then the ranting mode). With its sudden acceleration, closer `Til You Hit the Pavement sounds like an almost parodistic version of When The Saints Go Marching In.
From My Window High (perhaps the peak of pathos) emulates the evocative power of House of the Rising Son while the vocals intone a simple melody a` la ye-ye girls of the 1960s.
Rarely has a lonely guitar sounded so profoundly intimate and public at the same time. 
~ Piero Scaruffi, The History of Rock Music

Sarah June sings like a dead girl’s ghost. She’s got the kind of voice that sounds like the wind when it howls through door locks and window panes, the high-pitched and breathy wail of a drowned child’s spirit calling your name from the underworld. It’s the kind of voice you run from in your nightmares—not so much haunted as it is chilling—and the moment it raises a hair on your neck or a goose bump on your arm is precisely the moment June’s songs live in. To hear her sing for the first time is to never forget her, and the songs on In Black Robes, her sophomore LP released this past March on Silber Records, are no easier to get out of your mind than the name of the one who first broke your heart.
“This is the end, my friends / we’re all skeletons / with crossbones in our eyes / and wing-tipped shoes shined,” she sings. “I rattle like a poison snake / but that’s just the chance you take / when you get too close.” The song is called “Crossbones in Your Eyes,” one of the finest tracks to come out all year, and the second track on a record that plays like a goth-folk party in the graveyard of your mind. That’s where you’ll find Sarah June, rattling the bones of your fears and inviting you to delight in the mortality you’ve been sentenced to since the day you were born.
She’s cruising in her jet-black ‘68 Caddy with blown speakers one minute and getting summoned to judgment day by a hooded man who points at her with his bony finger the next.  “And now I’m just a lonely skeleton / in my coffin black / singin’ love songs to the grim reaper / I hope he brings me back,” she sings on “Judgment Day,” one of the record’s many standouts. Elsewhere she sings of peeling the label off of the bottle of regret amid a jazzy atmosphere of shuffling percussion and acoustic guitar that sounds like something off of Van Morrison’s Moondance, of the girl she studies from across the street as she ties her shoes–the one she loves “more than the girl on the second floor” or “the boy with the metal heart.” But mostly these songs gladly wander where your parents told you never to go, places where the night turns trees to “skeletons with filmy thin tired skin” and the people you cross paths with may be the last ones to see you alive.
In Black Robes is the work of an authentic American voice whose originality cannot be overstated. No one is making music like this–nobody. And while the songs may indulge an attraction to the mabacbre, they only do so with one eye fixed firmly on the influences that June weaves into her music like patches in some quirky quilt. She’s ballsy enough to drop an unmasked nod to Blue Oyster Cult (”don’t fear the reaper ‘cuz he’ll bring ya’ home”) just as she channels early ’60s girl-group pop with a shout out to The Crystals on “Mowtown,” her love letter to the Detroit where she cut her teeth playing gigs after dropping out of school as a teen (”and all the girls in the background sang /  ‘da doo ron ron ron da doo ron ron”). She turns in a Jaynetts cover with “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” and reaches all the way back to turn-of-the-20th-century gospel on “Bluesy Melody”:
Well this is what they call life, baby
That bluesy melody that swings me
that sweet chariot that brings me home
June’s guitar playing exhibits the aplomb of Dave Van Ronk, and the songs on In Black Robes are just as unadorned as the music that high priest of folk made famous in Dylan’s prime (It was Van Ronk who taught Dylan to play “House of the Rising Sun,” later immortalized by The Animals). June summons more power from the snap of someone’s fingers on “The Reaper” or the shy intrusion of percussion on “Crossbones in Your Eyes” than a more ornate production ever could have. Her stripped-down delivery reveals a confidence in her craft that puts In Black Robes on par with some of the most rending acoustic albums ever made–Hurt Me by Johnny Thunders or Springsteen’s Atlantic City come especially to mind. It’s that cycle of songs you only encounter once every few years, performances of such sincerity that they need little more than a lone guitar and a good mic to play it for.
The songs almost never linger beyond the four-minute mark, and the record feels like it breezes by in the time it takes to say your prayers. And how fitting that is, because after June takes you on her trip to meet the ghosts that haunt the anguished landscapes where she finds her songs, you just might want to say a prayer or two.
~ Gianmarc Manzione, Culturespill

Sarah June is a rising star in the alternative / indie music scene.
She has a new album out called "In Black Robes".
She is a young lady with a cool voice who has traveled the same route I have.
She came from Detroit to San Francisco, good decision.     No snow!
Sarah June is a sharp-as-a-tack lyricist, prodigal guitarist, and has a haunting soulful child-like voice. Sarah appears as a tiny tattooed-pinup girl, but backs it up with a very innovative and powerful sound that is unmistakably her own - created only with her voice and guitar. Sarah has two commercial releases: "This Is My Letter To The World" (2008) and "In Black Robes" (2010). Sarah grew up in Detroit, and now lives in California. June is quickly gaining notoriety for her undeniably distinct sound. Her second album "In Black Robes" is now available on Silber Records. as well as on iTunes. In 2007, Sarah began writing songs to compile into her debut album This Is My Letter To The World, which was released on Hand·Eye Records in August, 2008, and was met with excellent reviews. Sarah June will be performing in a town near you soon! Stay tuned!
~ Bearly Rambling

This folk singer songwriter is originally from Detroit, Michigan and now transplanted to San Francisco, California where her unique child-like voice and complex guitar playing have been warming the ears throughout the city.
Her sound is a bit gothic and spooky, but dramatic nonetheless and breathtakingly original. With her second album out this year, she has matured in her ability to write songs and communicate her feelings.
With song titles like "Cowboy" and "Crossbones in your Eyes," it's apparent that San Francisco has made its mark on this striking lady. Perfect for a dark or ironic film, we're hoping she gets licensed soon onto an indie film or television series, where her creepy singing can perfectly accompany a p! lot line.
Songs we recommend you listen to: "Cowboy", "The Reaper," and "Crossbones in your Eyes."
~ New Band Daily

If one were so inclined as to distill the last 60-or-so years of music into its purest form, what would likely be left would be little more than a voice and an acoustic guitar. Sarah June has the guitar, and she also has a good shout for being that voice.
Dubbed “attic-core” thanks to its echo-y home recording, June’s sparse singer-songwriting is undoubtedly indebted to the grand traditions of Americana, yet the majority of its blustery pretence is blown away by her impressively soulful chirrup and deceptively simple – but out of the ordinary – guitar style.
Her voice avoids being nails-down-the-blackboard squeaky despite maintaining a childlike sincerity, and, often near-whispered, it has a mildly eerie creep to it which serves her well. Her guitar playing has subtle depths, ranging from the Blues to the smoldering jazz of “Brand Of Bitterness” all the way to the charismatic progressions of PJ Harvey on “In Your Chevrolet”. In Black Robe’s bread and butter however is hushed Americana in line with Georgia’s Horse‘s chilly take on the genre, or indeed the campfire-folk variety pursued by acts like Lay Low.
Building on her well-received 2007 debut This Is My Letter To The World, and despite certain middle-order numbers like “Paper Lantern” not quite making the grade, the thirteen tracks that comprise In Black Robes have a piercing directness that help them avoid mumbling alt-folk pitfalls. Yet, as the album name suggests, there is a certain sobriety to the record. Its shadows are its points of interests. June appears not to be in mourning, but it’s fair to say that she’s not happy-go-lucky either as cloudy tracks like “The Reaper” prove.
Though now a resident of San Francisco, June remains a Detroit girl at heart as the loving ode “Motown” confirms. “Don’t forget you’re still Motown” she may well sing to herself, but this is not proof of her being homesick, as on In Black Robes Sarah June sounds very much at home.
~ Rob Gannon, [sic] magazine

Sarah June’s waif-like and childlike whispered vocals are actually a little bit distracting for me. I could never really listen to The Cranes for the same reason. The music is folk touched and gothic, minimal guitar strummed tunes that I think I would actually enjoy more if they were placed underneath a different singers fingers. That does not mean that you won’t like it. The ghosts and spirits are ever present in this delicate landscape. The blues crawl over wooden floors, and the strains and echoes of fading daylight fill each verse with a new kind of mythology.
~ The Big Takeover

A little gothic-tinged Americana folk with pretty unique vocals. Unique as in Joanna Newsom-unique.
~ Matt Buga, KUCI

It's amazing what someone can do with just an acoustic guitar and a beautiful voice. Case in point, this super great disc released by Silber Records out of Raleigh, NC. Ms. Sarah June's vocals do sound somewhat like Alison Shaw from the Cranes, but this is definitely an original release with a lot of the songs lyrics being based upon death and loss. Great artwork to boot! For fans of Joanna Newsom, PJ Harvey and Jarboe.
~ David Carter, Pins & Cathedral Bells

Gothic-folk singer-songwriter Sarah June's debut album In Black Robes can be a bit unsettling on the first listen. Her child-like voice, reminiscent of Johanna Newsom or Cranes' Alison Shaw, and accompanied solely by acoustic guitar sounds ghostly, haunted and decidedly eerie. Get past that however and you discover beautifully crafted songs steeped in the folk and blues tradition. 'Cowboy', 'Bluesy Melody' and 'Brand Of Bitterness' have a jazzy feel to them while 'Judgment Day' ("The hooded man with the bony hand / he pointed to me one day") and 'The Reaper' have that scary messin'-with-the-devil storyline of the old blues classics. 'From My Window High', Paper Lantern and 'In Your Chevrolet' are delightfully pure folk, June's voice transporting the songs along while adding a distinctive and original element often missing in tradition folk fare. In Black Robes is a lovely debut record, unusual and unsettling and very enjoyable, with 13 distinctive tunes that should appeal to adventurous folkies and indie listeners alike.
~ The Music Fix

Sure the songs she writes are filled with themes of death, loneliness, and sadness, but Sarah Rose sings like an angel (a baby angel) and plays guitar with fantastic musicianship. The songs may be simple, but their lyrics are fascinating (4 is a sweet, sad love song, while 2, 5, and 6 deal with death, which June sees as “home”), and her versatility as a guitarist is admirable (alternating between folk, jazz, and blues). This is a must-play for The Suicide Watch, as well as for many others who will appreciate this talented musician.
~ Pax Humana, KFJC

Charles Schneider interviewed Sarah June for Dream #9, and I favorably reviewed her debut album This Is My Letter to the World (Hand-Eye 2008), I’m happy to report that her sophomore effort is easily up to the standards of her first. Still all created by Sarah alone in her apartment, armed with her distinctive voice and usually a guitar. One of the many standout songs is her gorgeous contribution to Dream #9’s CD, the sublimely spooky The Reaper, (a fact which is curiously not mentioned). Brand of Bitterness is beatnik jazzy coolness, and would sound perfect in a late night club. Her remarkable almost childlike voice recalls Julee Cruise, Joanna Newsom and Alison Shaw of Cranes. This includes a gorgeous rendition of Sally Go ‘Round Roses.
~ George Parsons, Dream Magazine

This is one pleasantly surprising CD to come out of the normally experimental/industrial/agitpop music to come from Silber Media, but for some reason, Sarah June made it on to the Silber label and is hence, ready and waiting for your attention.
Listening to it is pure bliss. It’s pretty much an almost “pizzicato” sound to it, a lot of finger picking with strong fingers, as well as just good picking all over; that and Sarah June singing in that sing-song, little girl pitch of hers, which is so beautiful sounding as well as damn cute it just can’t be ignored. I think that the clean, crisp acoustic guitar complements the perfectly pitched but precious and brittle voice, that of Sarah June.
The music is an ominous, darkly mirrored silhouette after silhouette of the coming of something. What is what the listener must find out for themselves, by personalizing it the listener can make it their own in that way.
Some stand-outs include: “Judgment Day”, “The Reaper” and the haunting, echoing “Brand of Bitterness”, one that features some fine work on the stand-up bass-fiddle and “Motown” – her “love letter” to Detroit, MI.
One other cut which really shows off some more of that great acoustic guitar work is the penultimate song, “Fencepost”. The final cut, “’Til You Hit the Pavement” is one of the first times in years that I’ve seen the abbreviation for the word “until” written correctly, as ‘TIL not TILL, which is a noun, meaning a drawer, as in a cash drawer in a cash register. It’s also a lovely, reflective song filled, not with anger or sadness but more of a “que sera sera” kind of attitude.
~ Kent Manthie, Reviewer Magazine

Sarah June is a product of her environment growing up. As a child in the urban wasteland of Detroit, June was surrounded by a city on the decline. Like any flower that grows up in the cracks of the street, in order to survive as an artist Sarah June needed to transplant herself. Chicago came first, but Sarah June ultimately settled in San Francisco. With a subtly intricate acoustic guitar style and a voice that will make you think she's a young, uncertain child, June spins the sort of webs in song that grow from a childhood spent in a land where hope is a memory. Sarah June's sophomore album, In Black Robes finds the artist embracing her voice as a songwriter and opening up to the world as unfurling to the morning sunlight.
In Black Robes opens with "Cowboy", a song that's more fulfilling musically than lyrically. It's an odd start, but befitting of what is to come. "Crossbones In Your Eyes" is exceedingly odd lyrically, but there's something magnetic about the song. You'll find yourself revisiting this one based on an elusive and obscure beauty that hides within. One of the highlights of the album is "From My Window High", a love song written from afar to multiple people. The song is very unusual, combining a pining vulnerability with a genteel creep factor that's ultimately harmless. Sarah June gets inventive on "Bluesy Melody", a nice change of pace from the more introspective material that haunts In Black Robes.
Sarah June shows a fine touch for imagery on "Paper Lantern", an angst-filled tune that queries the future for answers that will only come in time. "In Your Chevrolet" seems like it might connect with "Crossbones In Your Eyes", and it's difficult to tell whether the song is full of subtle innuendo or just atypical imagery. The stark harmonies of the song are lovely and disturbing all at once. "Motown" finds Sarah June offering words of encouragement to her hometown. Closing out with "'Til You Hit The Pavement", Sarah June goes out with a bit of attitude in a powerful tune that will leave you with a strong impression of the artist.
In Black Robes has a number of levels of meaning. Depending on your age, perspective and tastes it's going to appeal to different people in different ways for different reasons. The juxtaposition of a world-weary world view with Goth tastes and a vulnerably sweet, child-like voice is interesting enough to pull most listeners in for at least a few songs. Sarah Junes misses once in a while, but in general the songwriting is quite strong. In Black Robes was recorded entirely solo in Sarah June's apartment, and the stark simplicity and isolated feel of the recording lends it significant power. Whatever your final opinion, In Black Robes and Sarah June will make a distinct impression on you.
~ Wildy's World

Sarah June’s sophomore album, In Black Robes, is a breathy, soul-plucking follow-up to her 2008 debut entitled This is My Letter to the World. We’re going to go whole hog and just say it – we love this album. No objections there. Our only objection is the idea that in one way or another this is considered to be a “goth” album. Perhaps it’s us, but the closest thing to goth imagery we’re seeing is June herself in press shots – all of which is fitting of who she is, but not necessarily a reflection of her musical genre.
Quite thankfully, her goth-ness is not quite the selling point as Avril Lavigne’s “punk-ness”, but we digress. We’re actually getting more of a subdued ethereal rock with folk/Americana undertones and a bleary-eyed view of life. Sure, we are haunted by ghosts present, past, and future, brought to light by June’s signature harmonies in an at times otherwordly key. But all this does not a solely-goth album make. June’s style is much more than that, and whether or not she knows it, she owns it.
Of course, while that’s a major reason why we like her, it’s the way she paints emotion-centered visuals with her words that gets us, from constructive observations to back-burner realizations: “You bend your words like you bend the streets / [...] and I woke up to a photo negative landscape / [...] I took up smoking because I want to be a cowboy” (“Cowboy”); “I’m just a lonely skeleton in my coffing black / Singing love songs to the grim reaper; I hope he brings me back” (“Judgement Day”). And now that we think about it, her voice lands somewhere between Talking Tina and Marilyn Monroe. It tickles and weirds us out in a good way.
The themes and performance encompassing the overall execution of In Black Robes makes us wonder what kind of inspiration would be necessary for, say, a third album. Take it as a challenge, Sarah June.
~ Lindsey Darden, Beat Crave

Sarah June is an American musician that will certainly leave an impression on you. It is not easy nowadays, with the tones of new albums released every month, to find something fresh or shocking in music bussiness, but certainly her sophomore album In Black Robes, it is something surprising the first thing you hear it.
Just with an acoustic guitar and her voice, Sarah is able to create a kind of oniric musical experience. She sounds like a mischiveous teenager about to whisper a dirty secret to the microphone, but at the same time the lyrics can be really dark and deep. Goth folk? Certainly the style is not easy to catalogue, and that makes this album even more interesting.
Maybe the best parts of the album is when the rhythm turns to be more bluesy, as a perfect example you can listen to the sixth track Bluesy Melody, where June`s vocal skills just shine or in Fencepost. Some other highlights of the album are the introductory Cowboy or the tenderly beautiful Paper Lantern, my favorite of the whole album.
However, if I have to put a “but”, I would say that the album could fall into sounding a bit monotonous after listening to it a few times. Sarah is skilled enough to show a wide enough palette of registers in the 13 tracks, but still, it would be interesting to see her beautiful voice going more experimental in the future (for example with a electric guitar…). In any case, if you like good songwriting and a female voice with a delightful twist, this album can be a great discovery for your collection!
~ Antonio Diaz, Free! Magazine this great CD. In Black Robes is a delicate and intimate album of simple yet intelligent folk songs. Sarah June is a young Goth singer-songwriter, and this is her second opus (I havent’ heard her debut This Is My Letter To The World, 2008). She has a pretty pixie voice, and she whispers and sings in tune, with a blend of seduction and childish naivete - tone-wise, not lyric-wise, as her lyrics are efficient and poetic, though the topics are conventional. June accompanies herself simply at the acoustic guitar. Honest and enjoyable. Some of these melodies will etch their path in my brain after only two listens I’m sure.
~ Monsier Delire

Sarah June sounds like she’s singing and playing guitar in an empty room in a big, old, empty house. I played In Black Robes loud in my house, itself old and at the time relatively empty of furniture, and it echoed through every room like she was singing to the walls themselves, to ghosts and cob-webs from the basement to the attic.
It may be her voice that makes me think of ghosts. She sounds like a child, like a whisper, like someone not quite of this world. It may also be the cool blues strut in her minimalist guitar playing, the way she sounds like the ghostly reincarnation of an old blues singer, singing of highways, cars, liquor and cards. Or the way she sounds like she’s watching us from afar, like in “From My Window High”: “From my window high / I study you / while you tie your shoes.”
It’s all of those things, but it definitely also has a lot to do with how much death hangs over each song. In “The Reaper”, the title figure is a beat-jazz cool cat tipping his hat to people as he takes them down (It’s also the song where the album title comes from.) On “Judgment Day”, the reaper turns her into a skeleton and betroths her to sing love songs to him. Fighting death, she lives on the edge, trying to tilt the scale back towards life. In “Crossbones in Your Eyes”, she’s one of a legion of skeletons, rattling her bones as she drives her ’68 black Cadillac, on the prowl for more souls.
Other songs carry the death/car imagery forward (“Bluesy Melody”), or tackle the potential death of a city (“Motown”) or aging of people (“Paper Lantern”). The final track “’Til You Hit the Pavement”, where she sings “you don’t know you’re falling ‘til you hit the pavement”, gives us the notion that life is a kind of ever-present purgatory. Life is the act of being “caught between ground and sky”, or walking down the street with one eye out for that black ’68 Cadillac.
~ Dave Heaton, Erasing Clouds

More atypical of the Silber roster, perhaps, is Sarah June, who sings in a little-girl voice and is accompanied by just her acoustic guitar. The immediate effect of “In Black Robes” (Silber 076) is a bit unsettling. However once the initial surprise of SJ’s helium-with-reverb vocals subsides you soon begin to appreciate what is an impressive and well-played collection of tunes on which she manages to wring the most out of her sparse accompaniment whilst using her distinctive vocals to very good effect. The subject matter is often eerie and gothic (in that sense she doesn’t deviate too much from the Silber template) with song titles such as “Crossbones In Your Eyes” (one of the album highlights), “Judgement Day” and “The Reaper” (another favourite hereabouts). This is a gratifying listen and a strong debut from Sarah June and hopefully we will hear more of her in the future. Anyone who liked the Orbweavers’ “Diamond and Graphite” album last year (see Terrascope Online reviews September 2009) shouldn’t be disappointed with this offering.
~ Ian Fraser, Terrascope

In Black Robes follows US singer/songwriter’s debut album, This is My Letter to the World, on the cult Hand Eye label in 2008. Featuring thirteen songs of a soft-focus, wispy and delicate nature that are built around simple home recordings of her with her guitar, it would be somewhat lazy to simply draw parallels with other female singer/songwriters whose work assumes a more stripped-down and minimal approach. Rather, Sarah June’s guitar style, originally inspired and still tainted by the classical jazz school, takes on a repetitive melodic slant not dissimilar to the twilight folk worlds Hand Eye themselves are especially known for traversing, although perhaps more refined. If anything, I’m reminded of some of Michael Cashmore’s solo work in terms of the way these songs are breezy and light in sound yet remain clearly personal. Sarah’s voice itself is gentle and lulling, which is perfect for this setting.
The entire album adds up to the kind of soothing listen where one knows that broken dreams are never so far away. And, in my book, this makes for a good balance. The appeal of In Black Robes goes beyond the trappings of Americana and Neu-folk, so the very best of luck to this young lady and her clear-minded craft.
~ Richard Johnson, Adverse Effect

As I was listening to this album, I had this nagging feeling that Sarah June’s voice really, really reminded me of someone else. This frustrated me for the longest time, until it hit me: Sarah June sounds exactly like Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter movies. This is not an insult! First of all, I’m probably the biggest Harry Potter nerd you’ll ever meet, so I thought it was awesome that I made this connection. Finding Harry Potter references in real life makes me unreasonably happy.
Seriously though, Sarah has an undeniably beautiful, almost haunting voice that perfectly complements a whimisical, acoustic-heavy accompanying sound. Vocally, she is totally Myrtle, but musically, she evokes Anya Marina, an artist I spent most of last year (and this year, and, okay, the present) obsessing over. Also noteworthy is the juxtaposition between her dark lyrical content (“The Reaper” is sung from the point of view of a dead girl bargaining with the Grim Reaper) and her rather gentle and soft musical style, somewhat similar to Nick Drake, or even Elliott Smith. But enough with the comparisons!
In Black Robes is a beautiful album on its own accord, and it’s another I’d definitely recommend. Not as strongly as Carta, but I recommend it nonetheless.
~ Logan Broger, Hearwax

Second record from this Detroit bred/San Francisco based artist who records her "goth folk" tunes in her apartment (she not only sings but plays all of the instruments as well). June has a distinctive voice, reminiscent of Alison Shaw of the Cranes and at times, Lisa Germano.  Most of the songs are June and her acoustic guitar but with such sparse arrangements the music is full of rich, moody sounds.
On opener "Cowboy" a stuttering acoustic guitar spins intricate webs while June's voice grazes over the top while "Judgment Day" casts a bit of an eerie glow over the proceedings mainly due to June's haunting vocals and the gorgeous guitar playing on "From My Window High" again is dark and moody but more hopeful thanks to the heartfelt lyrics. Elsewhere, "Grand or Bitterness" has a jazzy/beatnik vibe to it while "Paper Lantern" is pure folk. At times the record can be a bit samey but that's nothing a full band can't change. You've done the solo thing Sarah, now go on the hunt for other talented musicians like yourself and bring on record number three.
~ Tim Hinely, Blurt

Let me preface this, my very first review for Hierophant Nox, by stating that when it comes to the singer/songwriter genre I am treading in unfamiliar territory. Having said that, I enjoy having my preconceptions challenged and this is, if nothing else, definitely a challenge. The gauntlet has been well and truly laid down, and to those who are accustomed to more brutal and much rawer sounds, I urge you to take up the challenge along with me.
This is Sarah June’s second album, after 2008’s “This is My Letter to the World”. Sarah’s unique musical mixture of classical/folk/bluesy/punk/jazz/rock-tinged guitar picking and a sweet breathlessly childlike voice has come to us from San Francisco via Chicago and Detroit – indeed, one can readily detect musical influences from both the latter cities on here, in particular her style of guitar-playing. Don’t be fooled, though, by that superficial sweetness of her singing – the black-haired, tattooed songstress may have the voice of an angel, but this angel has spent her youth smoking behind the bike shed, drinking whisky and perfecting her skills at throwing axes. Not wishing to malign Miss June, but the impression one gets is one of her slowly bludgeoning a transgressor to death with a blunt instrument while giving her sunniest smile.
Death, love & loss; familiar themes and the stock in trade of the singer/songwriter, but there are very few who can carry it off with authenticity. Certainly in the edginess stakes these thirteen songs are right up there, the strong and assured guitar contrasting sharply with the fragility of Sarah’s voice – one feels that it wouldn’t take much to shatter it into a million tiny shards. This is shown to perfection on track five for instance, ‘The Reaper’: a lazy, strolling guitar, like a lethargic river on a hot summer’s day, and that sweet voice chanting so calmly and matter-of-factly about the grim harbinger of death, as if she’d just nonchalantly introduced herself after bumping into him down by the riverside. It’s that tension between the two aspects of her music that provide the frisson here – the assured and skilful guitar-playing contrasting with the blackly nursery-rhyme delivery.
In all honesty, it’s difficult not to be enchanted and entranced by Sarah June. After subjecting my ears and psyche to endless torrents of darkness, death, doom and destruction, this is a surprising change of pace, more surprising still in that despite the superficial sugar-candy elements there’s a determined streak of blackness veining every note of Sarah’s take on life. But that is its most appealing aspect, the dichotomy between what is seen (Sarah) and what you hear (her music). While not overtly ‘dark’ in the sense most would understand it, make no mistake this isn’t happy-happy music – this is maybe the kind of music that you would be listening to while driving your car at high-speed on that last ride to self-destruction.
~ Simon Marshall-Jones, Hierophant Nox

Sarah June is an American artist who released the debut-album "This Is My Letter To The World" some 2 years ago now. Her new album was my introduction to the very particular sound universe of this female musician. "In Black Robes" became a surprsing listening and one I'll definitely not forget! The songs are full of delicacy leaded by the unique and childish voice of Sarah June. She has a very particular way of singing. It sounds a bit childish, full of innocense, quite fragile and definitely dreamy. Musical wise Sarah June mainly plays acoustic guitar composing ballads full of reverie. The songs are nicely passing by, like taking the listener by the hand for a walk throughout the garden of Alice in Wonderland. "Crossbones In Your Eyes", "From My Window High" and "The Reaper" are exceptional pieces covering the opening part of this album. It might sound quite surreal, but her way of singing sometimes reminds me to Jim Morrison. It's not about the timbre of voice (of course), but more in the way she sings and accentuates some parts of the lyrics. "Brand Of Bitterness" appearing somewhere in the midst of the cd is the absolute high light. We here get some more instruments like drums and bass guitar joining in. The music sounds like a minimal version of Vaya Con Dios and is a brilliant interpretation. "Motown" coming at the end is another great cut. Sarah June he more plays with her voices showing wider vocal capacities. A very last song I've to mention is a cover version of "Sally Goes Round The Roses". The Sarah June album will bring some diversity to the Silber Records roaster while it's without a shaodw of a doubt my favorite release on this label for so far! A great piece of music!
~ Side-Line

Her voice is as delicate as spun sugar & she employs luminous, space-filling echoes around both vocals & acoustic guitar, but in her songs there is still a detectable texture of urbane grit - wrote about her creativity Gothic Beauty Magazine. As a child, Sarah June avidly played piano & guitar. She began writing songs as a young teen. At 18 she dropped out of school to pursue music, playing live in Chicago & Detroit before settling in San Francisco. Sarah June’s music is largely inspired by the haunting images of urban wasteland of her youth in Detroit.
She records her songs alone in her apartment, being careful to capture sincere & intimate recordings. Her signature sound is a uniquely fragile & childlike voice, vivid storytelling in her lyrics, & a classical/jazz inspired guitar style.
Sarah June’s sophomore album In Black Robes is a fitting reply to her first release - more distinctly personal & more intricate in musicianship. Her strangely fragile yet rich voice floats over guitar that is hypnotically simple, yet unexpectedly intricate. She effortlessly draws the listener in with visual & metaphor-rich songs focused on unique & timeless themes of death, love, & loss. Thirteen songs filled with ghosts & late-afternoon sunlight. Moments of past lives & dreams captured in music.
Silber Records crew is saying about her: "We first found out about Sarah June when she sent us a copy of her first album This Is My Letter To The World (2008) on our friend Timothy Renner’s Hand Eye label. When Timothy shifted his focus to Stone Breath & Sarah June was looking for a label we were happy to add her to the Silber roster. Goth folk, wyrd folk, & attic core are some terms that can easily be thrown at her music; but we just prefer to call it good. Oh, & the comparison of her voice to Alison Shaw’s (Cranes) is inevitable".
~ Artur Olejarczyk, Industrial Culture

Vocals that has significant characteristics in them can be a problem for me. I often don’t see it as an authentic output of the singer’s emotion, and I feel sorry for the special effort put in quickly finding the true voice of the singer,  rather then letting him release an album after an album and get to it naturally.
Joanna Newsom’s voice is something that I usually have very hard times with. I do appreciate her as a musician, but listening to her records can drive me nuts (didn’t hear her last one, I heard it’s different). Jim James‘ voice in It Still Moves, maybe the most reverb-soaked album of all the Louisville groups ever released an album, was a bit hard for me at first. That’s why I was very suspicious toward In Black Robes by Sarah June, that was sent to me by the wonderful Silber Records .
Sarah June wanted to be a cowboy, so she says in Cowboy, but something may have gone wrong there, as she turned out to be a singer. But the Townes Van Zandt-ian melancholy stayed there, and also the feeling of something missing.
The cowboy issue is a motive I kept thinking of throughout the album. How could you be a cowboy? Your voice is so fragile and delicate, and you’re not exactly rock’n'roll. Indeed, you are powerful, but you’re obviously classically trained or had some experience in jazz.
But if Cowboy means doing your thing, and be free with your art and emotions – Sarah takes it all, she is the winner.  A true Cowboy.
The lyrics in the album pictures images of an urban life, of something that was and will not be again. Maybe it’s youth, maybe it’s you, Sarah. These images fits perfectly with the choice of sound in the album. She recorded everything in her bedroom, and maintained a very close and intimate feeling.
It may be a little difficult throughout the end of the album, as the sound doesn’t change and so is the dynamics, but if you put that aside, and just hand yourself to Sarah’s fragile voice and fantastic guitar feel, you might find out that Black Robes is rather a brave statement as a debut from a young musician. And what this world needs today – is brave people.
~ Yair Yona, Small Town Romance

"It was another world altogether…a twisted paradise of danger and derangement…of crumbling houses packed extremely close together…of burned-out houses  leaning towards utter extinction…of houses with black openings where once there had been doors and windows" (Thomas Ligotti, Purity)
Auf ihrem 2008 auf Hand/Eye erschienenen Debüt sang Sarah June mit einer an Alison Shaw erinnernden Stimme nur von ihrer Akustikgitarre begleitet davon, dass sie ein „ghostly girl“, eine „radio wave“ sei.  Ihr zweites Album „In Black Robes“ – diesmal auf Silber Records veröffentlicht –  knüpft musikalisch, thematisch und visuell  (wie auch das Debüt zieren Gemälde ihrer Mutter das Digipack) an den Erstling an, auch wenn schon die vorab auf myspace veröffentlichten Lieder einen Hinweis darauf gaben, dass Sarah June ihr Stilrepertoire leicht erweitert hat: Noch immer steht ihre mädchenhafte Stimme im Vordergrund, begleitet  sie sich primär lediglich auf ihrer Gitarre, aber ihr gothischer Folk wird ergänzt durch beschwingte(re) Momente: Fingerschnippen bei „The reaper“ , jazzige Augenblicke bei „Bluesy melody“ und   „Brand of bitterness”, wobei gerade letzteres mit dezenter Perkussion einen Hinweis darauf gibt, wie sich ihre Musik in einem Bandkontext anhören könnte. Auch wenn sich thematisch einiges um den Tod dreht (auf „Crossbones in your eyes“ singt sie: „This is the end my friend/there are skeletons“,  ein Stück heißt „Judgement Day”),  sollte man nicht denken, dass hier pseudodepressive Musik gespielt wird. Sie scheint manchmal vielmehr eine leicht ironische Beobachterin „From [her] window high“ zu sein (die auch dazu bereit ist, ihre Lieder dem „grim reaper“ vorzusingen) und weniger eine im Weltschmerz versunkene Schwarzseherin.  Sehr deutlich wird das auch bei der Hommage an ihre Heimatstadt Detroit, die wie wahrscheinlich kaum eine andere amerikanische Großstadt vom „urban decay“ gekennzeichnet ist. Man kann davon ausgehen, dass die zwei Fotos im Digipack, auf denen heruntergekommene Häuser und Räume zu sehen sind, dort aufgenommen wurden, wo auch Thomas Ligotti eine nicht unerhebliche Zeit seines Lebens verbrachte: In „Motown“ singt sie -die Stadt adressierend-: „you’re gonna be all right“ – auch wenn die Fotos etwas anderes vermuten lassen.
Wie auf dem Debüt gibt es auch diesmal wieder eine Coverversion. War es auf dem Erstling u.a. Princes „When doves cry“, ist es jetzt „Sally go round..“ von den Janetts, das sich auch wieder problemlos in den Rest des Albums einfügt.
„In black robes“ ist ein in sich stimmiges und geschlossenes, atmosphärisches Werk. Man kann gespannt sein, wie sich das berühmt-berüchtigte dritte Album anhören wird.
~ Michael Göttert, Black Magazine

Silber Records, comme la plupart des labels américains, met toujours sur ses feuilles de presse, cette formule destinée à aiguiller le chroniqueur fainéant (ou à tiller sa curiosité) : RIYL pour "recommended if you like". Pour Sarah June donc, il est suggéré que ce disque devrait susciter comme références Joanna Newsom et PJ Harvey. Ce qui pour ma part n’est pas des plus excitants, n’appréciant pas le maniérisme précieux de la première et ayant perdu de vue la seconde depuis fort longtemps. Mais dès les premières minutes de ce deuxième album, In Black Robes, c’est immédiatement le nom d’Alison Shaw qui s’impose. Parce que l’Américaine semble être la descente directe de la muse de The Cranes. Même voix de femme-enfant, très précieuse, fragile, troublante, sensuelle. Imaginer qu’Alison Shaw se saisisse d’une guitare acoustique et se lance dans une reprise de The La’s et vous aurait une idée assez précise de ce à quoi ressemble Crossbones In Your Eyes. Plus loin, From My Window High ressemble par sa mélodie, à une chanson de Echo & The Bunnymen une fois réduite à son plus simple appareil. Certaines chansons évoquent aussi celle de The Sundays. Autant de références anglo-saxonnes que ne connait peut-être même pas cette jeune Américaine de Detroit au look de bassiste de groupe de skate-core (avec un énorme tatouage "Motor City" sur le buste et l’inévitable piercing nasale) ! Et pourtant Sarah June chante avec une incroyable délicatesse et tisse des mélodies finement ciselées à la guitare (on dira même sans ambages qu’elle joue sacrément bien la gamine !). Seule exception à l’ascétisme d’In Black Robbes, Brand Of Bitterness est une chanson mid-tempo, gentiment jazzy. Tout juste le temps de réchauffer l’atmosphère, par ailleurs franchement dépouillée au fil de courts morceaux qui évoquent tout autant une tradition folk (pour la forme) que des influences romantiques plus gothiques (pour le fond). Sarah June s’expose nue : une voix, une guitare sans le moindre effet et un indéniable charisme pour incarner ces histoires tristes.
~ Denis Frelat, Autres Directions

A vedere le sue foto, la si potrebbe scambiare per una Suicide Girl: acconciatura gotica, espressione ammiccante, atteggiamenti tra dark e post-punk. Invece, ad eccezione di qualche sfumatura oscura, nella sua musica non è dato riscontrare nulla o quasi dei cliché superficialmente suggeriti dal suo aspetto: all'apparenza della sofisticata "streghetta" Sarah June sembra infatti prediligere nettamente quella di una musa delicata, che non rinuncia ai suoi abiti neri (ai quali è del resto consacrato il titolo dell'album), indossandoli tuttavia con una grazia minimale, che per esprimersi non necessita altro al di fuori di una chitarra acustica e di una voce la cui tonalità fanciullesca non può non materializzare il ricordo di Alison Shaw dei Cranes.
"In Black Robes" è il secondo album della giovane artista di stanza a San Francisco, rivelatasi a livello internazionale in seguito all'inserimento di due suoi brani nella compilation "Ten" (curata dalla Trace Recordings di Mark Beazley aka Rothko), dopo che il suo debutto "This Is My Letter To The World", pubblicato nel 2008 da Hand Eye, aveva ricevuto una diffusione notevolmente inferiore a quella meritata.
Dell'intrigante freschezza di quel lavoro, Sarah June replica qui in buona sostanza strutture e tematiche, mettendo in mostra un cantautorato limpido e schietto, incentrato sui temi dell'amore, della morte e dell'assenza e modellato soltanto da note acustiche talora piuttosto nervose e irregolari e dalle variazioni di un registro vocale non certo amplissimo ma fortemente duttile nell'assumere molteplici colorazioni espressive.
Se infatti la parte preponderante delle tredici brevi canzoni contenute in "In Black Robes" si attesta sulla declinazione gotica di un folk acustico minimale a base di sola voce e chitarra, non mancano melodie sinuose e sognanti sulla falsariga di Hope Sandoval (le ottime "From My Window High" e "The Reaper"), blues dal passo svelto ("Bluesy Melody") e persino raffinate citazioni jazzy, con il contrabbasso a fornire un minimo di ritmo ("Brand Of Bitterness"). Essenziale elemento conformativo dei diversi contorni dei brani resta però sempre il limpido picking della June, in prevalenza languido e seducente ma altresì capace di alternare note calde e vivaci, iterazioni insistite e arabeschi talvolta più contorti.
Sono questi accordi, semplici ma mai banali, a costituire i puntelli luminosi intorno ai quali l'artista americana costruisce un'estetica brillante che tende a sfociare nelle torsioni oscure di mantra che narrano di scheletri e fantasmi ("Judgment Day") o di rose che feriscono ("Sally Go 'Round The Roses").
Deliziosa e intrigante nonostante la formula a lungo andare piuttosto monocorde, "In Black Robes" si rivela tuttavia un'opera in grado di coniugare con discreta personalità un goth-folk di stampo cantautorale e melodie cristalline, che nella freschezza di Sarah June e nel suo peculiare registro
Interpretativo trovano un equilibrio che smentisce agevolmente tanto i cliché dark quanto quelli del cantautorato folk al femminile.
Chi l'ha detto, infatti, che un'eterea musa folk non possa vestire in abiti neri?
~ Raffaello Russo, Onda Rock

Silber Records vaart al ruim een decennium een eigenzinnige koers. Je vindt er van alles, van experimentele muziek, ambient en drones tot folk, lo-fi, postrock en andere stijlen aan de schaduwkant van het muzikale universum. Er zit veel hoogwaardig materiaal tussen, wat maakt dat elke nieuwe release de moeite is om te onderzoeken. Nieuw op het label is de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter Sarah June (Sarah Weathers), die eerder op het Hand-Eye label al haar fantastische debuut This Is My Letter To The World (2008) heeft uitgebracht. Nu is haar tweede cd In Black Robes er eindelijk. De muziek van de in San Francisco woonachtige Sarah June roept vooral door haar poppige stem direct herinneringen op aan Alison Shaw en dus aan de Cranes. De muziek tapt echter uit een ander vaatje, hoewel de gothic er ook welig tiert. Ze begeleidt haar zang hoofdzakelijk op een akoestische gitaar en maakt daar een fusie van singer-songwritermuziek, blues, jazz en folk mee met een duister en spookachtig randje. Door haar enorme expressieve kracht zowel qua stem als gitaarspel vergeet je soms dat het om minimale middelen gaat. De kracht van Sarah is dan ook de eenvoud van haar muziek. Ze onderstreept eens te meer dat er maar weinig nodig is voor een maximaal effect. Naast de Cranes zal ze vermoedelijk ook fans van Nancy Elizabeth, Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart en Alela Diane aanspreken, al zit ze in gehuld in de blinde hoek van die artiesten. Het is ontzettend intiem en direct wat ze hier laat horen. Als een onschuldig kind dat de Apocalyps in het vizier heeft. Broeierige pracht!
~ Jan Willem Broek, Caleidoscoop

Tutto vero: la voce di Sarah June è acida, acutissima, a tratti irritante, ma non chiamatela «voce da bambina», per favore.
Sarah June: cantautrice da Detroit, MI. Sostanzialmente, lei e la sua chitarra. Estetica goticheggiante, cuore country. "In Black Robes" è il suo secondo album ed è un lavoro straordinariamente dritto al punto, nella sua apparente delicatezza.
Tra ballate folk e arpeggi blues, a spiccare non è soltanto l'abilità alla chitarra della musicista, ma soprattutto la sua scrittura: testi che, ça va sans dire, hanno come punto di partenza la visionarietà. Accanto all'immaginario gotico (scheletri e morte come piovesse, a proposito), però, si trova anche un'ottima predisposizione al nonsense buffo, il che sbarra la strada alla "potenziale pretenziosità dark" e rende tutto ascoltabile e riascoltabile.
~ LoudVision

Come ogni Sabato passo a svuotare la casella postale di Ultrasonica e come ogni Sabato mi ritrovo nel viaggio di ritorno verso casa con qualcosa di nuovo da ascoltare.
Pesco dal mucchio e il primo cd che salta fuori è questo 'In Black Robes' di Sarah June, direttamente da Detroit. Play.
Fin dai primi sospiri e dalle prime note di 'Cowboy' si avverte una certa intimità, solo chitarra e voce per questo inizio che sa di piccolo club dove immagino di vederla seduta centro palco con il suo strumento e la sua voce volutamente sottile, quasi adolescenziale molto simile a quella di Allison Shaw dei Cranes. Candidamente malinconiche le note su cui poggiano i testi sono affascinanti e struggenti, può non piacere come viene usata la voce, gli amici a cui ho fatto sentire questo disco hanno storto un pò il naso... ma per me è la peculiarità che fa grande le sue composizioni, in questo folk che vira delicatamente verso una decadenza gotica (nella quale lei stessa si riconosce nelle note biografiche) riesco a sentire la genuinità e la spontaneità delle mani sullo strumento, il picking a volte 'sporco' sulle corde in una commistione di influenze derivate dal Jazz e dal Blues anche quando in sordina entra il contrabbasso ad incidere sulla ritmica del pezzo.
Una serie di intimi racconti, sussurrati che mi fanno venir voglia di tirar fuori dall'archivio i vecchi 'Dogs' di Nina Nastasia e le 'Valli soleggiate' di Kendra Smith altre due belle voci che in qualche modo si legano al percorso di Sarah June, tra 'Cowboy' in cerca di una storia in cui credere e ossute figure che ci ricordano che qui siamo solo di passaggio (molto gotico).
Personalmente è un disco che mi piace, che trovo piacevole ad ascolti successivi (senza esagerare) e che nonostante la marcata malinconia riesce a trasmettermi un senso di pace.
~ Ultrasonica

Il folk proposto da Sarah June è indiscutibilmente alternativo. Fortemente alternativo alla massificazione incontrastata della musica odierna. Sarah invoca una modernizzazione stratificata dell'arte. "In Black Robes" è un disco composto da brani appena sussurrati, appena accennati. La chitarra dipinge fremiti di organici acquerelli. Acquerelli che nascono all'alba e svaniscono, come d'incanto, al tramonto. E poi c'è quella voce, la voce flebile della June, una voce che raccoglie emozioni semplici. Proprio perchè la musica di questa artista è semplice ed incredibilmente bella. Di una bellezza regalata dalle nuvole sopra le nostre teste. Mente pensante che crea ed elabora una sua personale interpretazione (moderna) del folk. Folk critico e gratificante e per nulla palloso. Sarah costruisce, dunque, una moderna esaltazione di suoni mai del tutto dimenticati. In definitiva "In Black Robes" è il cd perfetto per chi si vuole avvicinare ad un determinato genere musicale -come il folk- senza avvertire timore.
~ Claudio Baroni, Musica