Carissa Johnson — A Hundred Restless Thoughts (2019)
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Album release: December 18th, 2019
Record Label: A Diamond Heart Production.
02 The Upside
03 Middle of Nowhere
06 Carry On
08 Fuel Heart
By Victoria Wasylakon December 20, 2019
Carissa Johnson tames ‘A Hundred Restless Thoughts’ on her new solo album.
✹ With her new solo acoustic album, Carissa Johnson wants to take you to church — over, and over, and over again.
✹ A living document of her recent time on the road, the Boston rock stalwart’s new record A Hundred Restless Thoughts (released today, December 20) strings together live performances from across the country, almost exclusively recorded in houses of worship.
✹ While frequent collaborator Vanessa Silberman recorded the tunes, each excerpt from A Hundred Restless Thoughts features only Johnson in her unplugged prime.
✹ “Now felt like the right time to release an acoustic CD because I’ve been doing so much acoustic touring and solo traveling,” Johnson told Vanyaland. “I felt like I wanted to give listeners something both about that experience, and something that was more along the lines of that experience. Since I do a lot of solo acoustic shows I wanted to be able to have something representative of that live show, rather than the full band stuff. It came together really naturally too, and the timing just felt right. Once it was all done it just sort of felt like it appeared in my hands, even though a real lot of time and emotion went into this one.”
Despite the fact that Johnson’s musical lore in Boston runs deep (recall the glory of Talk Talk Talk? Her epic claim to the 2017 Rock And Roll Rumble crown? That current stint at The Jungle?), A Hundred Restless Thoughts strips all that brawn away and (temporarily) trades in The Cure~Alls for the hush of hymnals.
✹ “The church recording experience was something entirely new for me. I have always wanted to record in a church, even just part of a song, that had been on my bucket list, and when this idea came up I just ran with it,” she adds. “Just being in an empty church is quite a feeling, and hearing the music echo and reverberate against the walls is a very nice feeling. In order to get permission to record at the churches, we just e~mailed some around the towns we were in and had some family reach out to the churches they go to, to see which ones would allow it. Most were excited and very easy going and helpful about it. Others wouldn’t allow a non~Christian artist to play there, but that was a pretty rare response. Every track except for track three was recorded in a church, also excluding some post~production, which was done outside of the churches.”
✹ As a collection, the album offers a new performance perspective from Johnson, who hasn’t released an acoustic album since 2015 when she debuted as a solo artist.
“I think as a performer I have my way of delivering the songs, and that holds true to the electric performance as well as the acoustic one, and I try to bring the same high energy for both,” she says. “The acoustic shows sometimes feel more tame just because there’s not the same amount of electricity going on, but it’s nice to have a balance, and when I have too much of one setting I start to miss the other.”
17 DECEMBER 2019 BY JESSE
✹ I can’t think of a better way to end the year than with a brand new album from Carissa Johnson. After a slew of new singles in 2019 featuring the full band, Johnson goes it alone and strips it all away with an earnest, introspective new full~length to close out a stellar year.
✹ A Hundred Restless Thoughts is like Joan Jett fronting Guster circa 1995 with Johnson retaining yet restraining slightly her trademark attitude and edge backed by an acoustic aesthetic that’s like a sonic comfort blanket. “Cannonball” kicks it all off and highlights Johnson’s penchant for strong storytelling and songwriting while recent single with The Cure~Alls, “The Upside”, gets the acoustic treatment but keeps our initial “Run To You” comparison except with more of a Folk feel this time around. Here, as with the rest of the songs within, Johnson is a raw nerve as her voice and songs sound more exposed and bare in this setting making for her most intimate and enthralling record to date.
✹ Elsewhere, “Middle Of Nowhere” and “Somewherebound” are destined to be new CJ live staples. The latter is almost a hymnal, transcending Johnson’s other recorded works while the former is such a solid ditty built from another strong vocal performance accented by layers and flourishes from producer Vanessa Silberman.
✹ “Plans” is another featuring this in~your~face vocal recording with a heavenly backing vocal track and then continues with a semi~charmed kinda vibe as Johnson waxes poetic on moving forward with lines like “I never meant to leave/But, hell, I never meant to stay/Maybe the reason I left/Was just to come back anyway” during the aptly~titled “Carry On”.
✹ Penultimate number “Supermoon” offers a message of hope as Johnson croons “‘Cause if we got love/It’ll be enough” leading towards Only Roses‘ rawker “Fuel Heart” which closes out A Hundred Restless Hearts and is even more poignant when stripped of amplifiers.
✹ A Hundred Restless Hearts is out on December 20th through A Diamond Heart Production. You can get your own copy by clicking here or here. For the latest on Carissa Johnson, including upcoming live shows like the record release show at Somerville’s The Burren on December 18th.