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
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,
That bluesy melody that swings me
that sweet chariot that brings me
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
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
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
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
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
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
~ 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
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
...like 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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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