Boomkat Product Review:
Texan singer-songwriter Jana Horn's debut is a delicately effervescent, skeletal folk-pop delight - essential listening for fans of Sybil Baier, Broadcast, Phil Elverum, Richard and Linda Thompson, and Stina Nordenstam.
Less is so much more on "Optimism". Austin-based artist Horn has been working in bands locally for years - including quietly enigmatic slowcore outfit Reservations, but has waited until just the right moment to deploy her impeccable debut. A writing teacher and postgrad student by day, Horn uses smart storytelling and her small-town Christian upbringing to map out moods that draw from country, exotica and gospel, stripping her influences down to reveal only the key components.
Lead single 'Jordan' is so bare that its eruption in the third act - a disarming haze of synth pads, processed environmental sounds, atonal drones, and bitcrushed fx - sounds like a tidal wave, even though it's just as subtle as the rest of the song. Horn's voice is confident as she spins an apocalyptic narrative over a doomy bassline and practically little else. It's like Low's misunderstood "Drums & Guns" material spun into a nest of resonant spiritual experimentalism.
Elsewhere, Horn's dusted country influence shines through on tracks like 'Optimism' and the gorgeous 'Time Machine'. The latter lodges itself in the mind with a loungey swing that almost hints at Tortoise's "TNT" swagger, but rooted in Southern US density and heartbreak. It's tempting to compare lyrical weepies like 'A Good Thing' to early Sufjan Stevens, but Horn's insistence on minimalism sets her a few steps from the crowd. "Optimism" doesn't need layers of opulent production or thwarted ambition to assist her wiry poems, harmony and the faintest suggestion of percussion gives her enough weight to keep us going back for more again and again.