12 Songs, 39 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Is and Always Was finds Daniel Johnston venturing far beyond his lo-fi beginnings. In these tracks, producer Jason Falkner taps into his past experience as a Paul McCartney sideman to apply a wide array of ‘60s- and ‘70s-influenced sonic textures. While the surfaces here may seem new and shiny, the psychic struggles that have defined Johnston’s work for 30 years are still present. His battle with his inner demons remains an ongoing war, veering between temporary victories (“Without You”) and harrowing stalemates (“Tears”). Johnston can sound spiteful at times (as on “High Horse”), but he’s equally capable of bittersweet nostalgic tunes like “Queenie the Doggie” (a tune enhanced by Falkner’s country-tinged backup). A big, swirling remake of “I Had Lost My Mind” offers a link to Johnston’s early work. At times, Daniel’s quavering vocals are nearly overwhelmed by the arrangements, but tunes like the tender closing track “Light of Day” make up for any intimacy missing elsewhere.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Is and Always Was finds Daniel Johnston venturing far beyond his lo-fi beginnings. In these tracks, producer Jason Falkner taps into his past experience as a Paul McCartney sideman to apply a wide array of ‘60s- and ‘70s-influenced sonic textures. While the surfaces here may seem new and shiny, the psychic struggles that have defined Johnston’s work for 30 years are still present. His battle with his inner demons remains an ongoing war, veering between temporary victories (“Without You”) and harrowing stalemates (“Tears”). Johnston can sound spiteful at times (as on “High Horse”), but he’s equally capable of bittersweet nostalgic tunes like “Queenie the Doggie” (a tune enhanced by Falkner’s country-tinged backup). A big, swirling remake of “I Had Lost My Mind” offers a link to Johnston’s early work. At times, Daniel’s quavering vocals are nearly overwhelmed by the arrangements, but tunes like the tender closing track “Light of Day” make up for any intimacy missing elsewhere.

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