Published Apr 30, 2020The cover of Johanna Warren's fifth studio album, Chaotic Good, shows Warren crouched in a fetal position, her blurry reflection mirrored on the glossy floorboards. It's the perfect representation of the album as a whole, and a hint on what's to come — a body of work about introspection and being alone. Warren has said that Chaotic Good is about learning how to be with herself after many codependent relationships, describing it as her "phoenix moment." It's a departure from Warren's previous soft-spoken folk, and while some traces of this sound still linger, Chaotic Good elevates it to reflect her growth.
Warren has a strong ability to manipulate her rage and turmoil, having it bubble on the surface on slower, quieter songs, and then spill over the edge on faster, louder ones. "Part of It" has a catchy trotting rhythm, fitting for a song about a partner running away. Warren's vocals build up to screeches dripping with pain on "Twisted," sounding like a '90s Alanis Morissette tune. It's on her balladry, however, where Warren shines the most. Lush vocals, guitar and piano float on "Rose Portion," "Only the Truth" and "Bed of Nails," where Warren's vocal flips and patterns are reminiscent of a modern day Joan Baez. "Every Death" is a standout, a haunting ballad that bends and twists down its eerie melodic path.
Chaotic Good is certainly some of Warren's most raw work yet, and her precise mixture of the delicate and the feral encapsulates the humanness of heartbreak and learning to exist with yourself. (Wax Nine/Carpark)