Portland singer/songwriter Johanna Warren oozes raw talent with her latest album nūmūn. Nūmūn shows off Warren’s undeniable musical talent by highlighting her soaring sopranic voice, thought-provoking lyrics and eerie psychedelic folk instrumentation. Picking up Warren’s latest album, nūmūn, will definitely get you intrigued and wanting more.
Warren’s voice is both a comforting storyteller and a soaring songbird. Beginning with the first song, “Black Moss,” Warren shows off both of these vocal qualities. In the song’s’ verses, Warren’s voice plays the role of the meek storyteller with hearty undertones that distinguishes her voice from others. Then, once she reaches the song’s bridge and chorus, her voice seamlessly soars to high notes that many of us could only dream of reaching. The only comparable voice that I can think of is that of Jesca Hoop, whose early albums similarly had a psychedelic folk sound. “Black Moss” also nonchalantly covers the topic of death in the lyrics with the repeated line, “but soon black moss will cover over my dead body.”
Her thought-provoking lyrics mainly center around humanity and spirituality. Covering the topic of human nature, “The Wheel” seems to be a conversation with pain, as her opening question is, “O pain, why are you here again?” In “Noise,” Warren repeatedly sings that “God has plans but I’ve got mine,” proving to be the perfect example of how Warren subtly covers both God and human nature in her lyrics. “Noise” also shows how Warren can casually throw unique twists and turns into her interesting instrumentation.
The instrumentation on nūmūn is mainly made up of the acoustic guitar, but here and there other instruments and sounds are introduced in a way that best fits with the genre of psychedelic folk. “Noise” has appearances from laughing girls, rustling wind, and what sounds like the scraping together of silverware. “The Wheel” seems to include rustling pieces of metal repeating throughout the song.
“Apogee” is a non-vocal interlude occurring at the middle of the album. It begins in a sort of trance and reintroduces the scraping of silverware and rustling metal, as well as another which seems like glasses gently colliding. The off-kilter instrumentation of “Apogee” comes together to make a very eerie interlude. It’s a perfect fit to highlight the eerie undertones found throughout the rest of the album, through the weird sounds, ghostly harmonization, and even certain ways Warren plays her guitar. This “eerie” quality found in her instrumentation is a sure sign of psychedelic folk influence.
Johanna Warren clearly is both a talented vocalist and musician, as shown through her latest album nūmūn. If you have not yet encountered the euphoric experience of a psychedelic folk album, then look no further. Warren’s unique instrumentation, earthy lyrics, and gorgeous voice will certainly entrance you. —Krisann Janowitz