Live, love and repeat
Kacey Johansing has just released her recent album No Better Time, an amazing sonic exploration into how one can embrace love in their life despite past traumas. Bright, optimistic and genuine, No Better Time weaves a compelling lyrical narrative from song to song led by Johansing’s signature vocals. During production, Johansing was joined by multi-instrumentalist Tim Ramsey, and both Tyler Karmen and Rob Schnapf worked on engineering and mixing the album respectively. Unlike previous years, this effort was a solo album for Johansing, releasing it sans company, and authenticity shines through as a result.
Johansing wanted to make the album as true to life as possible—noting that she didn’t spend too much time worrying about capturing the perfect technical recording—but rather kept the process short, allowing for vocal imperfections and little mistakes in the final album. Truthfully, these elements make it much more human and captivating, inspiring energy similar to listening to live music. These little blemishes are like shining stars when considering the lack of live music events due to COVID-19, and the intimate tone of the album only lends itself to the live feeling No Better Time is infused with.
Inherently evocative of a communal feeling, Johansing leaves nothing to the imagination as she openly pours her life experience into her lyrical compositions. For instance, in “All of Me,” Johansing repeats throughout the song “I wanna give up/ feeling good enough,” which is certainly a sentiment many can relate to. From career demands to personal insecurities, people are constantly searching for a metric they can use to ensure they “measure up” to the rest of society. By alluding to this exhausting yet relatable cycle, Johansing demonstrates her dedication in ensuring No Better Time is true to life.
Evidently, the album is about accepting love and relationships, so Johansing takes things a step further as she continues the album, addressing not only the insecurities that pertain to herself as an individual, but the hidden ones that may arise over the course of a relationship. Seemingly reflecting back on her life experiences, in “Puzzle” Johansing sings “I fell into your well/ and felt the darkness there/ I reached out for the light/ and found nowhere to climb,” analogizing the sensation of entrapment that can unexpectedly transpire when searching for genuine love. Later on in the song, she questions “or are you only in it for yourself,” outlining how uncertainty can further damage the cracks in the foundation of a relationship. Brilliantly, Johansing takes the first step of healing by acknowledging and embracing these thoughts, physicalizing them into song.
Interestingly, though the album explores a more serious theme, the instrumentation that coincides with its lyrical composition is calm and breezy. With a focus on the acoustic guitar and percussion primarily, the album also features the piano and an array of woodwind instruments. Johansing’s vocals are light and soft like that of Phoebe Bridgers, yet her range and at times deeper tone was reminiscent of today’s popular R&B styles. Her vocal inflections truly encapsulate the sincere emotion she poured into the album.
In “Even a Lot Feels like Nothing,” Johansing softly sings as a singular piano echoes the movements of her voice, and slowly energy builds as percussion and the strum of a guitar later join her towards the chorus. The piano adds an element of depth and heaviness and the guitar layers in like an acidic break to keep things from feeling too depressive. For instance, in “Let Me Walk Right In,” Johansing grapples with the feeling of unrequited love, yet the instrumentation still has a hopeful feeling. The layering of two acoustic guitars almost seems like a straight juxtaposition to the lyrics, the music fusing together warmly as Johansing laments about being alone. Whether it was purposeful or not, it certainly adds a dreamy feeling to the album, each song feeling like a puzzle to be solved.
Overall, Johansing managed to create a wonderful album that is truly reflective of the human experience. Refreshingly, No Better Time centers itself around personal healing rather than harnessing anger or hopelessness, the typical emotions most artists tackle the subject of heartbreak from. Instead, Johansing’s work is positive and soulful and No Better Time truly drives home that there is no better time to start appreciating and learning to love life than the present.