Singer-songwriter Haley Johnsen recently released her new album, Goner, a 12-track collection of songs displaying her unique blend of indie-pop and folk-rock.
Haley explains that Goner is about “This constant push and pull between confidence and self-doubt. Fear and trust. This longing to be PRESENT with myself. To be grateful for who and where I am. Not worrying about the past or future or getting caught up in the desire to constantly WANT as opposed to just BE,”
While growing up in Portland, Oregon, Haley wrote 200 songs over the course of three years in the shed behind her parents’ house. In 2015, she released her debut EP, Through the Blue, followed by another EP, When You Lit The Sky, two years later, along with a handful of singles and national tours.
In 2019, Haley released her debut album, Golden Days, collecting vast attention. Later that year, she toured with the power-trio sister-band Joseph and with Big Wild, followed by her first European tour, during which she recorded her acoustic album, London Sessions, at Abbey Road.
Goner begins with the title track, opening on soft, gleaming guitars riding an undulating rhythm topped by Haley’s evocative, honey-dipped voice. Full of retro-flavoured folk-rock textures, the tune projects the feeling of a melancholic daydream.
Talking about the song, Haley says, “It came to be about the romanticization of nostalgia; the longing for what once was our youth and also the fear of death. It’s about my own internal struggle trying to stay present and at peace with who I am now, where I am now, and realize that my childlike self is still very much alive in me. It’s a reminder that I don’t need to be afraid or insecure with where I am in my life.”
Highlights include the low-slung, creamy “Common Ground,” on which Haley’s vocals take on dreamy, haunting tones. For some reason, “Emily” conjures up suggestions of Judy Collins because of Haley’s fragrant voice and hints of country-lite running through the melody.
“Higher,” perhaps the best song on the album, features a lush, almost gossamer chorus with gentle, glowing harmonies. Whereas “My Brother” rolls out on a delicious amalgamation of folk-rock tinted with traces of pop country.
Goner is excellent, teeming with smooth, captivating washes of music on enticing rhythms. Yet as good as the music is, the mellifluous voice of Haley Johnsen is the secret ingredient.