Album of the Week – ‘The Order of Time’ by Valerie June
“The Order of Time” is a delicately constructed album featuring a series of songs that allude to the sentiment of understanding time, restoration, recovery and forgiveness. It’s beautifully collaborated and shows off Valerie June’s unique Southern and soulful vocal styles as she sings personal and heartfelt songs, ballads and hymns. As June expressed, “understanding the order of time is important to anyone hoping to manifest a dream… There is a time to push, and a time to gently tend the garden.”, and this wonderfully arranged garden (album) that dabbles in the concept of time, has a lot to offer.
Track by track review:
‘Long Lonely Road’ is a pure autobiography that introduces the glorious album. Her lyrics are deliberate and heartfelt and her soulful and twangy vocals are powerful and heart-rending. June was a small-town Tennessee kid, and her lyrics in ‘Long Lonely Road’ depict her humble and simple childhood, “Pops made his work in dust/ But his hard-working hands fed us/ Sun up ’til sun sank down/ His body worked to the ground/ Folks thought we had it made/ Cause we always kept a face/ Meanwhile there’s bills to pay/ And the stack growing every day”. A simple yet warming introduction to the album.
‘Love You Once Made’ is a southern soul song with an outstanding organ which becomes more prominent throughout the album. The encapsulation of life’s crossroads and speculations with time is hugely present throughout the album. ‘Love You Once Made’ is a message of learning to understand and let go of your past and learn to move forward. June’s incredible vocals that have developed a certain twang from experiences passed, articulate her connection with her youth, agedness and her expression of self.
‘If And’ has a strong arrangement of blues and southern tendencies. The lyrics underline time vs. relationships and the understanding of love, loss and forgiveness, “If and you don’t show them you love them, it will be too late”. A hymn that will have you dreaming and will overwhelm you with nostalgia. The pulsating drone of the horns is somewhat of an urgent reminder of time that underlines her lyrics, which she later sings smoothly alongside, in a sense of recovery.
‘Man Done Wrong’ is a southern country number with catchy rhythms and drum beats and a blues style. Her nasal vocal styles are very prominent in this song, and the lyrics document the feeling of recovery after hardships, hurt and loss. This simple and stripped-down song is almost monotonous yet delivers such a powerful message which depicts June’s strong and forgiving nature.
‘The Front Door’ is a standout in the wisdom-filled story that is “The Order of Time”. It’s almost as if time stands still in this song as she sings of being “bound” as she leaves someone “waiting by the front door”. The song is melancholic yet meditating and alludes to that something that you used to let someone in may one day be the same something that becomes your only means of escape.
‘Astral Plane’ is a euphoric and elegant track that alludes to that notion of one day finding, understanding and connecting to your true self. The beautiful trills of the electric piano, synths and strums of the electric guitar harmonise with June’s soulful vocals while still maintaining her unique southern twang.
‘Just In Time’, the love ballad that it is, still takes a unique turn in the sense of writing a love song. Again alluding to the notion of time, the lyrics dabble in finding happiness through love, “just in time”. Against the reverb of the guitar, with drum tracks, cinematic violins, and the harmonics of the synths, June’s twang and voice cracks are brought to the forefront with integrity, in an understanding of taking hold of the present and not wasting a moment.
‘With You’. Among others in the album, this song has an atmospheric and expansive feel to it. It shows off June’s strong vocals, where she starts in her head voice alongside beautiful theatrical strings, and guitar, as well as the occasional chime of the gong. ‘With You’ is a dream of a brighter future spent with the people you love.
‘Slip Slide On By’ is a simple and modest groovy number, where June’s vocals are the main focus. The electric guitar and piano lightly dabble alongside the lyrics, holding the rhythm and harmonies, soon introducing the drum beats and brass instruments. The instruments soon become the main focus, as she soulfully sings of living her life day by day, yet often dreaming of “tomorrow/ tomorrow/ tomorrow”.
‘Two Hearts’ reveals June’s sweet nature once more and her vocals sing harmoniously against the bass guitar and synth organs. It features a modest electric guitar solo, that urges a sense of hope and gratitude as June sings of two people falling in love, almost at first glance.
‘Got Soul’, the final track of the heart-rending album. It features R&B styles, which nevertheless includes a banjo. It’s a party at the end of the journey, that makes you want to dance and praise. This song is almost a justification that you can sing in the style of blues or country yet still be soulful, and that is completely true, not just of this song but of the entire album. Her sweet vocals and atmospheric and occasional cinematic instrumentals are such an awakening to the definition of blues and roots. June sings “You’ve been often/ Misunderstood/ You been tossed and tangled/ In search of what’s good” is a perfect example of how she has been perceived overtime, yet how she has come to terms with and understands who she is and that is someone that who has “got sweet soul”.
Biography: Valerie June’s highly anticipated second album, The Order of Time, is set for release on March 10th, 2017 via Concord Records /Caroline Australia. On this enthralling and illuminating leap forward,the Tennessee-bred, Brooklyn based songwriter weaves electric blues, African rhythms, cosmic atmospherics and delicate soul into an inventive and wholly original rumination on love, family, struggle and the passing of time. Produced by Matt Marinelli (Bad Brains), The Order of Time features twelve original songs all written by June. Musically, June has refined and expanded her sound on the new album finding space from her previous work in its artful, self-assured restraint and overall cohesion. The collection’s finely sketched character studies brim with richness and detail while June’s ethereal, wide-open soundscapes provide a sterling backdrop for her remarkable Southern gospel and honey voice. Lyrical touch points such as ‘dancing shadows,’ ‘hot suppers,’ ‘curious neighbors,’ and ‘holy water’ draw the listener in and root these songs with density and weight. The “inevitability of change” and “time as the ruler of Earth’s rhythm,” is the album’s foundation, explains June. “And the knowledge that with resilience and faith things can work out.” “Long Lonely Road” is a reflective and somber lament as June’s voice reverberates over ringing guitar and unhurried drums, whereas the entrancing blues of “If And” internalizes regret in the face of time’s relentless churn. On the spiritual “Astral Plane,” June’s mystical vocal takes an otherworldly turn, whereas the sumptuous string arrangement on “With You,” is reminiscent of Nico’s most affecting work. Norah Jones adds her distinctive vocals to three tracks and “Shake Down” sparkles with background vocal contributions from her father, Emerson Hockett and brothers, Patrick and Jason Hockett. The Order of Time follows June’s 2013 breakout LP, Pushin’ Against a Stone that established her as one of America’s “most intriguing, fully formed new talents” according to the New York Times. She garnered praise from NPR, “a singular performer” and New York Magazine, “a powerful singer and a blunt, bruising songwriter.” June also made memorable appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, CBS Saturday Morning, Rachael Ray, and Austin City Limits. She has toured with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and Sturgill Simpson, and performed at Newport Folk Festival, Carnegie Hall, and much more. Valerie June has shared the new video for “Shakedown” via VEVO. Directed by Steven Lippman (Bowie, Laurie Anderson), the video shows June and her band in tight formation flooded in blue and green lighting, swept up by the song’s relentless, infectious rhythm. The video is a tribute June’s father Emerson Hockett, who contributed vocals to “Shakedown” and passed away late last year. The track also features back-up vocals from June’s brothers as well as Norah Jones.
1. Long Lonely Road
2. Love You Once Made
3. Shake Down
4. If And
5. Man Done Wrong
6. The Front Door
7. Astral Plane
8. Just In Time
9. With You
10. Slip Slide On By
11. Two Hearts
12. Got Soul