Juliana Daugherty's Contemplative 'Player' Marks A Promising Debut : All Songs Considered Daugherty strikes out on her own and falls down a rabbit hole with the lead single off her upcoming album, Light, out June 1.
NPR logo Juliana Daugherty's Contemplative 'Player' Marks A Promising Debut

Juliana Daugherty's Contemplative 'Player' Marks A Promising Debut

Juliana Daugherty's Light comes out June 1. Tom Daly/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Tom Daly/Courtesy of the artist

Juliana Daugherty's Light comes out June 1.

Tom Daly/Courtesy of the artist

There is a ceiling-gazing quality to Juliana Daugherty's songs — that's not an attempt at coining a new, fake genre, but a functional image. Light is the singer's first solo album after playing around the Charlottesville, Va. folk scene. Having spent a little time with Light, I just want to curl up in a circle of pillows and stare upwards at eggshell paint that could so easily be cracked by the quiet and contemplative poetry Daugherty sings with gentle, but aching lilt.

"Player" is the moody rocker that opens Light. Like the minimalist and monotone hypnosis of early Spoon and Cat Power, the song moves at a dramatic pace without breaking its stride; fixated on a destination, but with an end unknown to the listener.

"When I wrote 'Player,' I was thinking about the experience of watching someone close to you disappear down a rabbit hole: Falling deeper and deeper into some state of chaos that's out of their control and yours, which could be addiction or obsession or depression or most anything else," Daugherty tells NPR. "The song isn't so much about a particular person as it is about the particular combination of feelings that I associate with this experience: The hurt of abandonment and the feeling of personal failure — failure to understand, failure to help — that contradicts that hurt and compounds it."

"Curse all the light you see / Shots from the edge of some vast grief / I tried to find you there / I reach for your hand; I touch the air," she sings over palm-muted guitar, atmospheric synths and barely-there drum programming.

In its weary repetition, Daugherty deftly matches the experience of watching someone spiral downward, yet stay the same.


Light comes out June 1 via Western Vinyl (iTunes, Bandcamp).