Nat Johnson takes her first foray into the world of the solo artist, leaving you wishing she lived next door
heffield songwriter Nat Johnson is known for her work as the leader of both the acoustic indie band Monkey Swallows The Universe, and rocking indie-pop act Nat Johnson & The Figureheads. On her debut solo release Neighbour Of The Year, she ups her musical roots and buries them in the soil of the deep southeast.
Opening on a low key note, Not Now, Horse begins with a countrified take on Six Pence None The Richer’s Kiss Me – complete with sombre horn section and teen sitcom sentiment. The downtempo approach continues on the homely March, March, a track which may have exemplified Laura Marling if she’d grown up below Nashville’s rolling skies.
Despite the folk and country tinges, it’s the subdued pop of Virginia songwriter Mark Oliver Everett that holds greatest sway over Neighbour Of The Year. The title track is a deflated mix of Eels’ Jeanie’s Diary and I Like Birds, while Shelter and I’ve Been Shot would be equally at home on Daisies Of The Galaxy. As evidenced by the titles of her songs though, while Johnson may share E’s love of pop songwriting her lyrics do not possess the same positive approach to dealing with darkness.
Throughout the album’s seven tracks Johnson keeps the pace to a stroll, and while this keeps proceedings consistent an occasional change of pace wouldn’t have gone amiss, with the odd sprint or crawl something to be considered for the follow-up. That said, Neighbour Of The Year is a fine indie-folkified pop record, with a country underbelly that makes it a welcome addition to Nat Johnson’s songwriting canon.
Verdict: A triumph of acoustic pop songwriting