I. Self As Unreliable Narrator
Long term relationships that eventually end tend to end gradually, and then suddenly. It’s only when it’s over that you realize the “gradually” part, though. At the time it just seemed like your life. And in the months following that final, absolute break, you find yourself questioning whether or not you still exist, what else you might be lying to yourself about. You wonder if the heart-chambers you shut down will ever re-open and also when, exactly, did they shut down? Had you even noticed, at the time, and how did you rationalize it, then? When did they fall out of love with you or you with them. When, precisely, did the sex slow down and then cease. You wonder about things you described as “comfort” that you now realize were “boredom.”
I’ve been tired
I’ve been boring
Another sign you’re ignoring
And it’s been so long
since I wrote a song
Sometimes you might wonder when, exactly, something toxic became too routine to examine, let alone name, acknowledge or confront. Is it them or is it you or is it what you have become to each other? (Who are you?) You have all these cute inside jokes, all these memories of when you first fell in love, all these things you can only understand together, so maybe everything is just too wrapped up to come undone. (WHO THE HELL ARE YOU)
There is photographic evidence of how we used to be
But that was us and now it’s you and me
-“That Was Us“
Then it ends: you end it, or they do. Your heart breaks or you realize it’s been broken all along. All this time! I mean sometimes you just feel stuck in a thing and you can’t imagine life any other way but was that really life, anymore, at the end? It doesn’t make sense that someone like you — someone so self-aware, maybe even somebody who’s been around the block a few times — were not self-aware enough to see the blinding reality of your own life.
It’s like I took a break
Years with nothing to say
Now I know that my mistake
Wasn’t loving you
It was letting that get in the way
Sometimes your brain does you a small favor (but it’s really not a favor, not really) by sticking to the script, by closing the door to any possibility besides the one you’re stuck in. It keeps you from being jealous of something you’re not sure you can have. But it also just keeps you.
and if you sit on your feet
don’t be surprised when they fall asleep
Julia Nunes “Some Feelings” is two main stories, really, sort of out-of-order, if we’re getting down to the brass tacks of ordered tracks, and the first is that story — the one about the ends of things, which is less about the break-up or the relationship itself and more about the part right after when we’re not sure who we are anymore and all our essential organs are basically so much smoke.
I remember New York fondly enough
If I refuse to look at myself
Pathetic and comfortable in the abuse
“Something Bad,” which has been floating around the internet for a while, is somewhere between story one and story two. Julia Nunes describes Something Bad as her “self-destruction anthem.” She has said the song is “like when you just buy into all of the relationship-ending cliches, stalking your ex on Facebook, seeking out meaningless hookups, looking at yourself and saying “what am I doing” and you just don’t care and go with it.”
I wanna make so many mistakes
that you’re lowest on the list
I wanna make mistakes
and I want you to hear about it
– “Something Bad“
The second story is about the tentative and eventually exuberant beginning of something new, something the girl from the first story never imagined possible. It’s about saying, “I don’t have any feelings for me or for you and I am dead inside” right before kissing so hard your heart expands in tandem with your mouth. You don’t trust your love-related human-parts any more because THEY’RE LIARS. But this is different than that, right? (Right?)
II. Some Feelings
I’m not qualified to sit here and talk to you about instruments or instrumentals or what this or that sounds like or which artist to compare a person to because I’m not a music writer, or a music player. I can’t even dance! I’m just a girl in love with an album and I’m pretty sure you’ll love it too so I’m trying to convince you to buy it because everybody deserves a chance at falling in love with this album. I’m new to Julia Nunes, I should tell you that straight off the bat. I met her last summer through a mutual friend and looked her up afterwards. It turns out she was kinda famous! So I tried to catch up then, and I donated to the kickstarter so I got to download the album last week. My girlfriend, Abby, loves it too, even though she usually just listens to Drake.
Like a lot of musicians who got their start on YouTube, Julia Nunes first made her mark as a singular person with a singular instrument — or, in her case, multiple instruments, but still, it was her playing most of ’em. After her first self-released album, she worked with other musicians and producers but even so, none of those tracks sound like these tracks, which quite consistently sound like they involve a band. (Right?) Like recently Julia took down a bunch of her old beloved YouTube videos because “I don’t want what I’m doing now to be lost amongst what I’ve done for the past 8 years. I don’t want the best thing I’ve ever done to be 10% of what you can find if you’re looking. I want anyone who is just finding me now to see who I really am. Later, they can dig deep into the internet and find my nose ring but until then I wanna greet the world as I am now.”
Here, somebody who knows better described it like this: “Some Feelings is a big leap from the head-bobbing, sing-into-the-mirror music that her fans are used to–in fact, this new record has full blown dance songs with intricate, unexpected rhythms and voicings.”
With “Some Feelings,” Nunes wanted to “raise the caliber” of her music, give it “the same quality as anything a record label might put out.” With producer Joanna Katcher, Nunes has gamely achieved that goal. It feels impeccably produced. Not a single moment or word is wasted. Nunes smacks some acoustic singer-songwriter feelings atop stylish indie-pop productions and the transition from the old stuff to the new stuff probably feels for longtime fans like longtime Dar Williams fans felt when they popped in “Mortal City” and heard “As Cool As I Am” for the first time. Like; OH I CAN DANCE TO THIS, NOW? and it feels weird for second but then makes perfect sense.
This past spring, while the kickstarter campaign that enabled her to make this album was in full swing, Nunes talked to Autostraddle and said we could expect this:
“Stuff you could hear on the radio, full blown pop/dance songs, and then the last song on the album is just me and a ukulele, and it is like the most gut-wrenching song I have ever written. Then there’s everything in between. There are songs that might sound like my old YouTube stuff, just with a real drummer.”
If I tell you this is already one of my favorite albums of all time, I don’t know what that means to you, due to my lack of expertise. Do you trust me more or trust me less if I say the last time I got this excited about an album was “Hearthrob”? (And that I didn’t like “Sainthood” very much but I did love “The Con.”)
Do you like Tegan & Sara? You will like this album. There, I said it.
III. Last Summer in California
When Julia’s album went out to Kickstarter supporters, Abby and I texted each other at basically the same exact moment: “Make Out” reminds me of last summer. Have you heard it? I hope it reminds you of something old or gives you hope for something new. This is the second story on “Some Feelings”: the love story.
I got shit to do
I know you do too
But I won’t let go of you
‘Til you push me away
I’m going to talk about last summer now. When Abby and I got to the hotel for the blogging conference I was presenting at last July, I texted Dannielle, another presenter I kinda knew, to meet up and I said something like, Also my girlfriend is with me! She texted back: Oh, also my girlfriend is with me! Later we’d laugh about how for both of us it was actually the first time we’d referred to our respective humans as our “girlfriends,” which had felt both weird and right, like a new outfit we were trying on. Like we suspected this was gonna be a primary-circulation t-shirt because it was so soft and fit just perfect but we didn’t want to jump the gun. Weren’t ready to go public. Still, we didn’t really know each other that well so who cares what we wore, let’s just see how it goes. It went.
See when you get into somebody and you kinda knew each other for a while beforehand but nothing really ever sparked (like you were both with other people, maybe) and then suddenly everything sparks at once and you let yourself fall hard lickity-split, people don’t really take you seriously about your new thing. You must be crazy! You’re doing something bad. You’re making mistakes. Surely you surely you of all people should know that love is a lie and we’re all going to die alone! Remember that thing you were just in? Remember that other thing you almost got into, you idiot? Maybe you’re just rebounding.
I jump in feet first like I forget that I just keep getting hurt
I think you’re coming to save me, so I grab your hand
You pull me out of the tarpit and into the quicksand
-“All The Same“
So when you’re all wrapped up in that kind of thing, it’s better to keep it to yourself. Wait a few wash cycles.
I am trying to be realistic here
I am dying ’cause I know I can’t resist if we’re
Gonna be so sorry soon
I can’t keep my hands off you
And I don’t want to
If we’re careful maybe this could be alright
You are caffine and I’m staying up all night
I’m not stupid enough to believe
I could just kiss you and leave
There will be prices to pay
What are we gonna do
I just wanna touch you
But for two or three days in the valley of silicon we had a Safe Space For Four where it was okay to be head-over-ankles elbow-crush-song in love with our humans, giddy and grabby and self-absorbed, obsessed with each other in a way that offended exactly zero people. We could tell our stories without fearing judgment, like they were heroic stories right off the bat. The fact that Julia Nunes is actually Dannielle’s girlfriend in this story is just gravy, honestly.
Of “Make Out,” Julia Nunes has said, “I feel like maybe I didn’t eat anything for the first few months I was making out with Dannielle. I could have gone days without water without noticing.” There really should be science on this because it’s true. Is it true for you? I become downright skeletal which’d worry my friends were it not for the frequent appearance of those teeth-bones, they ones that shimmer when you can’t stop smiling. You can feel Julia smiling on “Make Out” like you can hear her crying on “Fondly Enough.” I almost start crying just thinking about “Fondly Enough” and I almost start itching my teeth thinking about “Make Out.”
Getting to the love at the surface takes a lot longer when that muscle’s caved in like a crater. You have to fill that all up first before you can even start building on top of it again. But you’ll be surprised, in the end, by how much you can still grow there. OH, I CAN DANCE TO THIS NOW?
Yes! Yes, you can.
pre-order Julia Nunes’ “Some Feelings” now. and if you’re in the los angeles area, you should go to her record release party at 8:30 pm on the 25th.
Yay! It makes me so excited to see Julia doing such impressive things. I loved her music when I listened to it in high school & I love it now, but there’s no denying her tunes just keep improving & I couldn’t be happier for her :)
UGH GREAT POST. i only barely knew about julia’s youtube/ukulele presence because she was at bonnaroo one of the first years that i went. i didn’t know her songs at all but her energy was undeniable — and not energy like bouncing up and down and running along the stage, but like she was shooting lasers out of her body without moving an inch. then seeing her at a-camp was just So. Much! i mean it was fucking lovely — she’s just so absorbing. and what she said about taking her older things down so she could be who she is right now, that is so real and important.
i hate talking about music because i don’t know what to say or how to compare things to other things either, but i do know that i love this album so much!
don’t ever tell me you can’t write about music ever again miss bernard.
also i mentioned this in my recamps but a big reason i picked up the ukulele at all is because i randomly saw a video of julia doing a really solid destiny’s child cover on youtube. she impressed the hell out of me at camp. what a powerful voice, what a lovely human being. can’t wait to sit down with this album.
I loved this. I’m probably going to go home and listen to this album and cry for hours now, it’s gonna be great.
woah this is good! I got chills.
This review is so lovely and real that I just pre-ordered the album despite not knowing Julia Nunes’ work well at all.
You will not regret this decision!
i finally made an account just to comment on this and omg you are so spot on and this album encompasses so many feelings i’m feeling right now it’s perfect
I’ve been listening to this album on my way to/from work every day since Kickstarter gave it to me, and I’m very happy to have my feelings about it validated here.
Yes yes yes all of this yes
yup, this album has been the soundtrack of my life for a week, and it’s not going anywhere. yup.
Damn! Every word of this is so real. Thanks for introducing her to me!
JUST what I needed this early, early lonely morning, feeling ponderous and strange and low. Perfect perfect.
Hadn’t heard much Nunes aside from sweet covers, backed the album on Kickstarter because ukulele and queer and supporting artistry and why not. Its so awesome I’m glad I took a punt. Haven’t stopped listening to it since I downloaded it.
what’s weird is i feel the exact same way
I feel like I just earned the badge for supporting queer things when I don’t always have the extra funds. :) WORTH IT.
I don’t really read about music but I’d read anything you write about music.
Also, this really is such a great album!
This album is twisting me up in ways that are both melancholy and giddy, and I love it. I’m so glad I decided to read this article because I’d never have known about it otherwise.
aw, that is so wonderful to hear!
This album is absolute perfection and Riese has summed it all up in the best way.
this would make a great birthday present for someone’s mom …. js
What would I do without Autostraddle to lay out all my JuNu feels onto?? What did I do BEFORE the Autostraddle and JuNu worlds had collided??? I’m glad we don’t have to worry about that anymore.
Thank you, Riese, for this beautiful review, and Julia for making things that make us feel! Keep on keepin’ on!