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Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
The last we heard from Brooklyn’s Julianna Barwick, back in the early days of YIMBY, she was a relative unknown enchanting us with her home-recorded, digitally released 2009 EP Florine, featuring “ambrosial symphonies using just her voice and a loop pedal.” Two years later, she’s returned with a proper studio recording, a deal with Sufjan’s Asthmatic Kitty Records, and an arsenal of strings and piano that turn her uplifting, church-rattling blear into a swarm of slowly unfurling ecstasy. Upcoming album The Magic Place (out Feb 22) is 40 minutes of a ghost choir’s circling chants; it ranges from haunting to comforting, but mostly provides unfiltered, narcoleptic joy. The title comes from a tree that grew in the back pasture of Barwick’s childhood farm in Springfield, Missouri — you could crawl inside its branches and lay down inside, no doubt a magical place to any kid. The sparkling track that bears its name is no less pastoral, her voice swirling like lighting bugs and the gentle string accompaniments adding a warm highway’s background hum.
When was the last time you visited your special tree?
We moved away from the farm when I was 13. Once we came back to visit the city and drove by the old place to check it out. The brushy areas and trees had been cleared out. It was pretty tragic.
You say this year has been magical for you — what specifically?
I got to do a lot of fun musical projects and tours where I met some incredible people. I fell in love. I moved to my favorite neighborhood. I recorded an album — and got to do it an actual space with lots of fun instruments to try, so that was wonderful.
Do you you remember anything about the recording session for this song in particular?
I remember feeling really happy during the recording process. I think the song has kind of an elated spirit, a sense of wonder. I think there’s a lot of that on the record. I had the base of that song, that first vocal loop you hear, for a while. I recorded the additional vocals on top of it, the ones that aren’t too layered. It was one of the only times I recorded my voice straight into the mix without looping it. I added the strings and left it at that!
There’s strings on this. What was it like introducing them to your sound?
It was a little jarring at first! Particularly the ones that sort of rise above the mix. But the melody would pop into my head, and I’d try them out on a few different instruments, and it just sounded right as strings. I felt pretty open about adding new things while recording this record, because I had all this openness and opportunity in the space.
What are some of your favorite “magic places” in New York City?
I have a favorite tree in Fort Greene Park; Central Park, especially in spring; the stairway at Hunter College; the beaches; the willow tree in Botanical Gardens near the palm house; the cherry trees in the Botanical Gardens; wandering in the Lower East Side . . . the novelty of New York City hasn’t worn off for me even after almost ten years. I still get swept up in the magic of it.