Exclaim!'s Staff Picks: Julie Byrne's 'The Greater Wings' Aches with Love and Grief

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jul 10, 2023

"I drank the air to be nearer to you." That's the first line Julie Byrne sings, atop spectral guitar plucking, on the titular opening track of The Greater Wings, her first new album in over six years. It almost serves as an explanation for her time away — of course, she was busy living the poetry she now offers. Or perhaps it's more apt as a crisp, aching summation of the twin forces of love and grief.

The album began to take shape in the fall of 2020, and then again in spring 2021. Then, Byrne's longtime collaborator Eric Littmann suddenly passed away that June. The Greater Wings both honours the singer-songwriter's late friend and their work together, and sees Byrne expand the splendour of her delicate musical architecture through both strings ("Portraiture of a Clear Day," "Hope's Return") and synths ("Summer Glass," "Conversation Is a Flowstate").

But her voice remains the central foundation of it all, celestial and grounded in the frailty of breath; the stained glass through which The Greater Wings see themselves extended anew. 

(Ghostly International)

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