The past year has been wonderful for female singer-songwiters. From the soft, sad, lullaby sound present on Florist’s “Vacation” to the howling frustration on Bully’s “Trying” and everything in between (Mitski, Hinds, Frankie Cosmos) women are carving out a space for themselves in the indie rock community and taking no prisoners while doing so.
Johanna Swanson, who creates music under the name Yohuna, has done an incredible job of carving out her own niche within this world. The ambient pop artist has been slowly gaining traction since her arrival in Brooklyn as an artist in residence at Silent Barn last fall. Prior to her residency there, she moved around often and indiscriminately — you could have found her in her former home of New Mexico, or just as easily in her former home of Berlin. It took until the fire at the Silent Barn (and therefore the fire at her apartment), though, for her to fully commit to her music. In a statement to Stereogum, Swanson refers back to this time: “New York has a funny way of pushing you, it really asks you to narrow your desires and focus on one thing.” And so she focused.
The product of this focus is an album set for release on September 9, Patientness, a quality she says her lack of led to both her constant movement and her inaction regarding putting out an album. Luckily, this lack of patience seems to have turned out in her favor by not only allowing her to hone the technical skills required for a musician to put out a truly great album, but the life experience required for that album to actually mean something. The first single off this album, “Apart” (an early version of which was released on a The Le Sigh compilation in 2013), speaks of this experience and meaning. The lyrics, sung angelically over a fuzzed-out guitar riff, speak of a love not totally lost, but otherwise unavailable.
“Make my body hurt like this hurts,” she croons after them, with phrases like “Only tell the truth soaked in booze” bringing the more honest, self-destructive elements of love and heartbreak to the surface of the song. “Apart” is an acknowledgement of both Swanson’s own flaws and self-pity, and acceptance of the fact that those two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. For all of the sensational female musicians taking the independent music world by storm today, Yohuna‘s unabashed self-awareness and ragged honesty are what make her, and this song, a stand out.