Smile Politely

Review: Megan Johns’ Hey, Lonely

Having never heard a Megan Johns song before listening to this album, I didn’t have a general opinion that could be swayed one way or another. It was a pleasant change from seeing a band live and trying to incorporate all those previous opinions into a review of something brand new. Oftentimes it is easy to get caught up in the past instead of paying attention to what sits right in front of you. A “fresh slate” is typically a good feeling.

On Hey, Lonely, Johns finds a happy medium between her fusion of fiery acoustic folk rhythms with pleasant songwriting — and definitely does not waste any time with any introductions. Within the first few minutes I had a feeling of what I was getting myself into, despite having never heard her play as I mentioned before. I appreciate an album that is not difficult to figure out, while at the same time maintaining the complexity for it to still be an interesting listen.

The warmth the album is especially important in giving this the exact critique I want to give it. The tracks have an interesting blend of acoustic folk with a more vibrant sound with a mix of strings here and there throughout. The droned out chords on “By The Way” followed by “Still” provide a more rugged vibe than I would have expected, and Johns’ wispy vocals contribute to that warm feeling as well. Even the most charming track “Doo Wop,” which doesn’t really sound like any other track on the album (and barely breaking the one minute barrier) gives off a similar vibe.

Hey, Lonely maintains relatively the same momentum throughout, although that is one aspect which made me a feel a bit lost at times, referring back to the track listing to see what song was playing. The tempos are similar in several of the songs, but through slight changes in melodies and arrangements it kept me interested in what was around the corner. I have to say that “The Beat Was Burnt” threw me off for a second because it comes off as a much more intimidating track than the ones that preceded it. There are some nasty and more evil sounding folk tones, especially through the use of a creepy violin section in “Still.”

Although this is a Megan Johns record, it has a fuller band feeling than I could have expected. When listening I recalled some mid-90’s mainstream radio alternative around these tracks (the parts of those Alanis Morrissette and Dave Matthews songs that people enjoy come to mind), even though each one of them maintained an edge to stay away from the flaws of that category. They conveyed a more sensible and personal side where some of those radio hits lacked. For the record, I am genuinely happy to site those two artists positively in a review.

To say I was pleasantly surprised by this record would be a misstep, because by doing so it would imply expecting a mediocre listen. Johns finds a way to capture being both melodic and hypnotizing at the same time. Leaning too much to either side can get boring, so to do both is excellent. From the beginning when Johns yearns “I would be lonely without you” at the end of “Man in the Corner,” any slight thought about leaving this one went away and I realized I could stick around and play this one a few more times.

Johns will release Hey, Lonely at Cowboy Monkey this Friday, February 17 at her album release show with Common Loon & Hathaways

Watch: Megan Johns’ “Hey, Lonely”

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