At No. 10 in our mid year list of favorite albums comes 'Rooms With Walls And Windows' by Seattle's Julie Byrne. Recorded live by Jake Acosta, and remastered for vinyl by Owen Ashworth and Mathew Barnhart, this is an album that haunts you with its innate, unfettered beauty, characterised by a bare bones production style that aims unashamedly for a vintage folk aesthetic. Album opener 'Wisdom Teeth Song' sets the tone with its potent blend of vocal and instrumental melody, wrapped in a hazy analogue warmth. This is a tone that, by the time you reach 'Holiday' about 4 songs in, is fully realized by a strange sense of completion. There's something about the way Ms Byrne teases you every few songs with a chorus left seemingly unfinished, or a feeling left unsaid. And then, just when you need it most - that finality - there it is!

The elegiac, achingly beautiful 'Prism Song' is without a doubt the album's high point, a song so fragile you fear it might break under the weight of its own sentiment. Technically speaking, there isn't much to this album beyond a guitar, an analogue tape recorder, the occasional keyboard and Ms Byrne's lovely voice. With a bit more clarity, she might even sound something like Cat Power; but heck, you don't put on a Julie Byrne record to hear clarity, you put it on to hear pure, unfiltered emotion. The simplicity of this albums' composition and production is in fact where much of its charm lies. With its vocals and guitar strums so often doused in a ghostly echo, these songs seem almost to exist in another world entirely; a world filled with longing, regret and heartbreak...a world long since left behind. Album closer 'Piano Music For Lucy' more or less typifies this 'otherworldliness', imbued as it is with seemingly sci-fi undertones, and a beauty which, quite frankly, defies description. In the purest sense, 'Rooms With Walls And Windows' is an album that takes the term 'hauntingly beautiful' to its apex; indeed, it personifies it. MB