Johanna Samuels – Excelsior! (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 37:38 minutes | 775 MB | Genre: Folk
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Basin Rock
“Before making this record, I was feeling the furthest from myself that I ever had.” Reflecting on her forthcoming album Excelsior!, Johanna Samuels continues, “There was a lot of cognitive dissonance—wanting to pursue my music while also being able to feel good about who I am as a person. This record is a lot of me identifying what I don’t want to be.”
A wholly personal document, Excelsior! finds the LA-via-NYC songwriter exploring the nuances of her interpersonal relationships and the importance of listening to each other, understanding that a conversation doesn’t have to end because one person has to be right and the other wrong.
The album was recorded deep in winter, snowed-in at producer Sam Evian’s upstate New York cabin, soon to be called Flying Cloud. Recorded mostly live to tape with Samuels’ band – Harrison Whitford (guitars), Garret Lang (bass), and Sean Mullins (drums) – it was Evian’s first full-length production at his new cabin studio. Excelsior! is as gently elegant as we’ve come to expect from Evian’s own records, but it’s driven by Samuels’ easy yet arresting melodicism and confidently vulnerable delivery.
Just as the songs on Excelsior! seek answers through companionship, Samuels calls upon a handful of womxn to provide the album’s backing vocals—a task she’d always performed herself until now. “I made the record mostly with men, and that’s a space I find myself in constantly in music,” Samuels says, “so it was a very important and special part of the record to have these different womxn that held me up. I really looked up to all the womxn that sang on the record.” As such, Excelsior! makes space for the voices of Courtney Marie Andrews, Hannah Cohen, A.O. Gerber, Olivia Kaplan, Maví Lou, and Lomelda’s Hannah Read.
This is what pulls the songs together most—Samuels’ desire to re-establish bonds of community and connection—something she believes we’ve all lost in recent years. Indeed, much of Excelsior! finds her learning how to navigate being supportive of other womxn when for so long they’ve been pitched against one another. “How much space is given to us is so often dictated by men and it pits us against each other and has become ingrained in who we are. I’ve definitely acted against myself because of that, and in ways that I didn’t feel like were authentic to myself,” Samuels explains.
1. Johanna Samuels – Sonny
2. Johanna Samuels – Nature’s Way
3. Johanna Samuels – High Tide for One
4. Johanna Samuels – All Is Fine
5. Johanna Samuels – The Middle
6. Johanna Samuels – Close to the Vest
7. Johanna Samuels – Song for Sid
8. Johanna Samuels – Julie
9. Johanna Samuels – Less of You
10. Johanna Samuels – Cathy