June West celebrates the release of her self-titled debut at Exo Roast Co., on Thursday, Sept. 13.
With a doe-like spirit and a keen eye set on self-examination, June West chronicles stories of both deep loss and contentment and creates a reflecting pool of her life.
“The release of this album is a big milestone for me as a human trying to find my purpose,” West says. “The greatest lesson has been about how people across communities are generously willing to step up and help me realize my ideas because they believe in what I do.” Which serves as fuel for West to persist through the challenges of being an artist.
Drawing influence equally from the present day (artists like Natalie Prass and Angel Olsen) and the past (godmothers Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones who helped pave the way), West is a practitioner in flux. “The newer songs have been more deliberately evocative of soul and R&B, which has always resonated with me.”
Upon entrance, delicate and dreamlike, partially hidden from view, June West is an album that reveals its secret gardens with each listen. Here are a few highlights.
On the opening track, “Island of Women,” West questions what it means to be a woman in America. “This is what it feels like to be a woman in a man’s world. It’s like being on a pristine beach. And getting your heartbroken by a sunset. It’s like Donald Trump becoming president. It’s like exploitation of the Earth. It’s like being on the Island of Women.”
Drenched in R&B, thick and unhurried treacle, “The Comedown” is delivered like balm. Julian Neel’s Wurlitzer electric piano runs interweave magically with West’s sweet supplications and Lori LeChien’s backing vocals. But its Grant Beyschau’s saxophone lines that leave an unexpected waft of David Bowie’s solo on “Sweet Thing” lingering in the air.
On “Game To Claim” West earns the dub “Sonoran Seoul Queen.” Her smoky voice marries at the crossroads with Adan Martinez-Kee’s restrained backbeat, with a funky rhythm guitar track from Connor Gallaher that intersects country, rock and soul. A sound reminiscent of the hybridization that brought Muscle Shoals renown. Google “Game To Claim” on YouTube.
Lush and dreamy, with Gallaher’s lilting pedal steel slides and West’s piano flourishes, “Green World” is an ode to Mother Earth. “When we say the word ‘love,’ the highest expression, as defined by German social psychologist Erich Fromm, takes the shape of ‘motherly love,’” West says. “There is something about touching the beauty of nature that evokes the profound glory of what it means to be alive.”
As for the future, West says, “I’ve been learning how to make beats and expanding my dance and movement practice. I want to continue collaborating with artists who inspire me. I have a lot more music to share with the world.”