Debut from Faithless collaborator Zoe Johnston.
Zoe Johnston is not a musical newcomer, having supplied bands such as Bent and Neon Heights with songs, as well as touring with Faithless for 18 months and performing on 'Crazy English Summer'. Her first solo album 'Happenstances' comes after the birth of her first child in April, and is a self-produced album featuring 16 acoustic lullabies.
Opener 'False Alarms' is a very Gaelic sounding folk ballad, which is pleasant in its way but not very startling. The subdued tone continues on 'Crazy English Summer', to be followed by 'Nobody Like Myself'; the kind of song which whispers in your ear so softly you wonder if you imagined it. The pace never really picks up throughout the album, so it's hard to understand the decision to include so many songs. The song 'Straight Through Me' talks of "setting my devlish heart alight" but when the delivery of such a line is so sweetly it's difficult to feel it is a sincere sentiment, and thus comes across as somewhat clichéd.
Often sounding like a more acoustic, less shrieking, Alanis Morrissette, Zoe Johnston has a voice which is pretty but lacks any really distinctive qualities. For someone who has been writing songs since the age of fifteen, on an album dealing with weighty subjects such as her father's terminal illness and being brought up in a commune, this album seems too slight to bear such weight. The songs here all present themselves as sweet acoustic ballads, which do little to differentiate themselves from each other.
This album is obviously the product of ongoing labour, as many of the songs have been around for several years. With 16 tracks, several of which are instrumentals, 'Happenstances' tips the scales, and doesn't help with the familiarity of the album. With so many songs the sound easily becomes repetitive and eases its way into the bland category.
I love hearing pared down, emotionally stirring acoustic music, but unfortunately this is not it. Acoustic, yes. But curiously, listening to this album is an emotionally devoid experience. The delivery is harmonious but not stirring, leaving the listener with only the most fleeting impression of Zoe Johnston and her songs.