Johanna would play these songs on repeat and rush to the piano to find the melody on the keys. Chasing out a beloved lick helped her capture what she loved about each song, helped her understand the feeling behind the chord progressions. To this day, Johanna still plays by ear, but this is hardly a handicap—she approaches songwriting without the logic of measures and keys and time signatures. The result is a wonderfully pure collection of songs, melodically uninhibited and lyrically generous. You’d never know that Johanna, now a darling of the music blog circuit, was the quiet one.
Always the accompanist, the rhythm section, the backup. She liked to blend in, a skill she honed in choir. For Johanna, harmonizing in choir triggered a new passion for contemporary pop artists who thrived on melody: folks like Elliott Smith, Ben Kweller, Jon Brion, and Aimee Mann. Even though Johanna felt more comfortable sussing out the songs of her idols on the piano, she began writing songs of her own while attending college in New York City. During that time, she wrote and collaborated with friends in her hometown of Los Angeles as she pieced together her first two projects, A Little Bit of Both and Lemonade.
Both of which were little more than a collection of demos, produced and recorded on Johanna’s laptop. Upon returning to Brooklyn, she wanted to produce something cleaner, thus Giant Fantasy Life was born. Recorded at a friend’s studio on Sundays for the better part of a year, the album is named after a line from one of Johanna’s favorite Elliott Smith songs. The songs deal with the discrepancies between the physical world and that of the mind, and the complications that come with reconciling the two.
“That’s what the mind is,” Johanna says, “a giant fantasy life.” By Eliza Mae Smith Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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