Secret Meeting score: 78
by Joseph Purcell
Think of some of the finest music that you have heard- music that makes a connection and creates a bond that ensures you return repeatedly. These albums don’t always go down as ‘classics’ or ‘essential’ albums, but once or twice a year you find one or two that make perfect sense and they become personal highlights.
Kacey Johansing’s third album, The Hiding, falls into such a category. The record is her first on her own, Night Bloom label, and the first since her separation from long time soul mate and Yesway collaborator, Emily Ritz. The album reflects the beautifully gentle rolling Californian landscape that inspired it and is tinged with the emotional personal conflict that beset Johansing in the preceding months of the albums creation.
Beginning with the whimsical backing sounds and escalating vocal, Bow and Arrow is a beautiful introduction, as Johansing espouses the request to ‘open my heart’, as she details visions of love and hurt built upon the anchor of a sauntering cello. Arriving on the luscious guitar sounds, Hold Steady changes a pace with a soulful dreamy questioning of ‘what’s it going to come to now?’ as she displays her full array of talents, and fantastic ear for poptastic summer sounds.
The snappy pop of Do You Want Me is inescapably danceable, and on a bass of joyously fresh sunshine which yet again casts visions of Californian drives, along the rolling expanses of the American West Coast. Johansing’s great talent is to transport you to this place. ‘It seems great opportunities come in blessings as well as tragedies,’ is gently pitched in the magnificent title track of the album, as Johansing truly hits her stride and gives a wonderful example of her ability to paint pictures and imagery, in a gliding, immaculate five minutes that’s reminiscent of a female Rufus Wainwright, openly scaling the joyous highs with the bittersweet lows of conflict and turmoil.
Power of Love brings a different feel, with a falling vocal scale that works perfectly against a crashing drum echo. The country infused tones of Old Feeling Old Foe seem a little out of place, although the redeeming harmonies are effortlessly pitched and soothing. The Hiding culminates, with the synth patchwork of Evergreen, preceded by the undoubted highlight, Take One Leave One, which finds Johansing conveying quite beautifully the pain of the lyrics ‘things don’t work out how you planned it, blind we are’ on a track of sweeping turmoil.
Johansing’s task to refocus herself, following the tumultuous musical split of the proceeding years has found her in fine form, with an album that feels undoubtedly like a perfect accompaniment to the long hazy summer nights ahead, and may well be one of the year’s less heralded musical delights.