Juliet Huns – Behind the Scenes
The EP Behind the Scenes, the first release from Kenyan born and now Los Angeles based singer Juliet Huns, is an impressive introduction to a artistic figure poised to garner considerable attention. The three songs included are definitely pop tracks, but they aren’t your typical offerings. There’s an evolved sensibility here that’s certainly a cut or more above what the mainstream gatekeepers prefer. Huns simply isn’t pigeonholed easily. Describing her songs and performances as pop is scarcely even half the story. Much of the time, Huns eyes song construction the way rock bands approach it – orchestrated to induce tension – and her voice carries off those moments without a hitch. She is a powerful, fluid singer who can move through a range of emotions without overexerting herself or turning the vocal in a heavy handed direction.
The EP’s first song sets a tone. “Realized” has a lot of hard earned wisdom in its lyrical content and speaks quite well for itself without ever becoming overwrought or weighing down the music. Huns’ phrasing is confident throughout the entirety of Behind the Scenes, but she’s especially charged here and there’s real exuberance sparking her voice. The primary musical instrument is keyboards and synthesizers, but they exude warmth as well rather than succumbing to the same mistakes so many other artists make with those instruments. Purists might think these songs would have benefitted more from a live band handling the playing chores, but there’s no lack of life in the approach she’s chosen. No musical move is inherently bad, really – a talented musician or group can make even the most apparently questionable decision seem compelling if they execute it with imagination and restraint. “Gone” proves Huns’ capacity for challenging the listener is alive and well. The guitar improbably comes into play here, but she absolutely makes it work in juxtaposition with her voice and it gives the song a sharp edge that’s hard to not be impressed by. It is interesting that Huns’ vocal here, in response to the different musical elements brought to bear, broadens its approach as well when compared to her singing on the first song.
“Red Line” is the final dramatic moment on a dramatic EP. The lyrics and subject matter of these songs don’t broach subjects hitherto untouched in pop history, but the words on Huns’ songs will strike experienced listeners for their avoidance of cliché and formula. None of the “typical” lines you hear in songs of this ilk pop up in Huns’ writing. Her phrasing makes “Red Line” a special experience as well. She gives so many of the right things an emphatic stress that many listeners will be immediately carried away by her spot on vocal. It’s difficult to imagine a better closer for this brief collection. Behind the Scenes goes deep and challenges its audience, but it never goes places that the listener struggles to follow. This is sophisticated pop, yet accessible. The personal tint surrounding the songwriting and Huns’ interpretation of that quality coupled with the commercially minded musical arrangements get the next phase of Huns’ inexorable rise off to a memorable beginning.
9 out of 10 stars.