Spin - "'Heading Home' is both a lament for the place where you truly belong, and hopeful hymn for the promise of your inevitable return. Despite its nearly weightless presence, WILL ultimately is a record about going places..."
Recording information: Asheville, NC (2015); Brooklyn, NY (2015); Grahamsville, NY (2015); Lisbon, Portugal (2015).
Prior to Will, Julianna Barwick's albums each had a singular sense of place reflecting where they were made, whether it was her own bedroom or a converted swimming pool in Iceland. However, Barwick recorded her fourth album in several distinct locales: Upstate New York, Asheville, North Carolina's Moog Factory, and Lisbon, Portugal, where the piano she played on songs like "Beached" was the same one she used on The Magic Place, and originally belonged to her early champion Sufjan Stevens. This globe-trotting genesis makes Will more varied than any of her previous work. Instead of flowing into each other seamlessly, its songs are self-contained atmospheres, and within each track, Barwick explores different kinds of motion. Elongated drones suggest an endless horizon on "Wist," synths and vocals ring around each other on "Nebula," and piano and bass trace wide arcs on "Big Hollow." Will's discrete songs also let Barwick explore different emotions. Where her previous music felt like it went on forever -- or like it always existed -- the defined edges of these tracks emphasize that the listener can only spend a short amount of time with them. Barwick's willingness to avoid a sustained mood is risky, but it gives Will a restless poignancy. It feels a little like a loss when "St. Apollonia"'s idyllic echoes fade instead of building into the next song; "Same," one of two duets with Mas Ysa's Thomas Arsenault, evokes the aching, full-throated beauty of This Mortal Coil as he and Barwick express a passion so intense it can't last. While Barwick returned to recording on her own with this album, a handful of well-chosen contributors keep some of Nepenthe's wide-open feel. "Someway," the other Arsenault collaboration, is another standout, with the earthier sensuality of his vocals balancing her soaring bliss. Elsewhere, Dutch cellist Maarten Vos lends a soothing depth to songs like "Heading Home," while percussionist Jamie Ingalls' powerful work helps make the fiery finale "See, Know" a true climax compared to her earlier albums' subtler culminations. An intentionally fragmented portrait of change, Will's cracks show the growth in Barwick's music, and its pieces are facets that allow different aspects of her talent to shine. ~ Heather Phares