Julianna Barwick mystifies and soothes with “Healing is a Miracle” (review)

Julianna Barwick, 2020. Photo by Jen Medina

It’s extremely rare that I come across music that actually gives me goosebumps. It’s one thing to get an emotional connection with a band, but something completely different when it resonates with you on first listen. Julianna Barwick’s “Inspirit” almost brought tears to my eyes when I took a look at July 10th’s releases and gave her a listen. Sounding downright heavenly, I knew I had to get a listen of her upcoming album, Healing is a Miracle.

Barwick has a unique approach to her tunes. She records layers upon layers of her voice to create a “one-woman choir.” Implementing a wide variety of pitches crafts eloquent, gorgeous vocal harmonies. While the lyricism is vague, it is not the center focus, as the verbiage takes a backseat to the tone. This is similar to the popular track “Hide and Seek” from Imogen Heap, except Barwick’s brand is even more expansive and exploratory.

What Barwick does with such a limitation on resources makes the end result so impressive. Her grasp on perfect pitch eliminates dissonance and gives her an other-worldly presentation. With the voice comes tight production that sprinkles in subtle elements like soft piano and earthy reverberation to enhance the melodies. With different keys between each song, the elongated held notes remain familiar, but not stagnant. The pounding bass in “Flowers” even caught me off-guard with its brash intensity.

Our singer-songwriter had a dream come true in Healing is a Miracle – she got to work with her favorite vocalist, Jonsi of Sigur Ros. Another band where ambiance is key, “In Light” features the singer, and is hauntingly beautiful as part of one of three collaborations on the record. Working in both major and minor key throughout the album, bits and pieces have stuck in my head for weeks, and, surely, more will, come its release tomorrow.

While Healing is a Miracle is a brief eight tracks, it’s going to be in my regular rotation all year. With four albums under her belt already, there’s already a respectable discography, and Healing is a Miracle is a ceremonious addition. I’m so glad I discovered Julianna Barwick, as I now hold her in the same regard as greats like Bon Iver and Explosions in the Sky. This is essential listening that just about anyone could get into. But don’t take my word for it – Barwick needs to be heard to be believed.

Rating: 9.5/10

A press copy of Healing is a Miracle was provided courtesy of Ninja Tune.