You can put reissues on your year end list even if it’s for a record that’s two years old, right? Because we didn’t get the opportunity to review the regular edition of Blue Hour when it originally arrived in November of 2021 and kinda wanna make it known that it is undeniably tops. Also, we’re going to review the SHIT out of Blue Hour Deluxe from Rum Bar Records and A Diamond Heart Production to make up for our flub which means there’s a whole lotta Carissa Johnson music to talk about with this bigger, bolder edition featuring the album’s original 10 tracks plus 12 tracks collecting previously released The Good EP and the debut of the tunes that make up L’Heure Bleue, After Dark for a walloping 22 new to some, old but differently structured songs from the formerly Boston-based musician.
You know those albums that really speak to you??? We’ve dug Johnson’s output since being introduced to the singer/songwriter’s work via the late, great Mary Frances Church while collaborating at WEMF (Also RIP) and have tried to keep up with what’s comes since… but apparently fucked that up somewhere and missed this gorgeous, glistening Electro Rawk masterpiece (Yeah, we know what we said) that’s already almost two years old. Anyway! Johnson is a generational talent, okay? And an immaculate storyteller to boot with Blue Hour being some of the songwriter’s most poignant (Not to mention catchy as hell) music to date. Hell, people should feel blessed that they live in a time where Johnson is regularly producing music and if listening to this deeply personal album doesn’t tug at the heartstrings at some point then you might need to talk to someone.
Now onto the tunes!!!
If you’re familiar with Johnson’s work either solo or with The Cure-Alls (Who pop up on The Good EP later on) then opener “Wasting Dreams” is a little bit of a shock to the system as it steps away from the more guitar-oriented sound in favor of the lush synthetic atmosphere that envelopes all here and on the Blue Hour tracks to follow. At its’ core, though, this is Johnson through and through with the singer’s signature vocal style and stories still ever present even if it’s wrapped in an Electro blanket.
“The Sound” is HUGE with an atmospheric beginning before a thumping bass and beat bang out this starry eyed stomp that’s a little reminiscent of the rad sounds The Bravery used to drop. “Running Uphill” is a vibrant rawker with the guitars taking over as fellow Bostonian Cliff Notez lends some mic skills in the breakdown while “Polaroids” is straight outta the ’80’s for a glowing Berlin meets A Flock Of Seagulls meets ‘Til Tuesday New Wave romp. Later on, “Time, Only Time” is a futuristic downtrodden but introspective ditty with Johnson’s effects-laden vox shining in the chorus with “Merry Go Round” coming in hot next like some modern Devo with vigorous melodies and a killer sing-a-long. “Tourist” really leans into the synths with Johnson lamenting “I don’t wanna be alone anymore” surrounded by playful melodies for the ultimate mindfuck and then “The Outline” follows a similar path with more Pop on the mind. “Middle Of Nowhere” is kinda Gaga-esque but also nicely melds a lot of styles that Johnson has been synonymous with for a mainstream Alternative Dance track that’s completed by the quieter, acoustic-driven “You” to finish the Blue Hour portion of our story.
Originally released in 2020, The Good EP features The Cure-Alls (With Nick Hall on drums, Steph Curran on guitar) for a handful of plugged in racks (Like “Something Good” and “The Upside” which we previously reviewed) plus an acoustic version of Talk Talk Talk‘s banger anthem “You Lost You” (Humblebrag: we had a chance to hear an even earlier version at WEMF before the release of TTT) and alternate versions of “So Far So Good”. Then there’s L’Heure Bleue, After Dark which is a fitting coda to the big Blue Hour opus giving listeners six alternate versions of tracks within like acoustic takes on both “Merry Go Round” and “Middle Of Nowhere” to bring some more introspection to the table, the Ryan Manning remixes of “The Sound” and “Wasting Dreams” with their The Fifth Element-style sheen, and the surprisingly more guitar-heavy demo versions of “Tourist” and “The Sound”.
Blue Hour Deluxe arrives on June 2nd through Rum Bar Records and A Diamond Heart Production ahead of a support show with the similarly fabulous Eddie Japan at Faces Brewing Company on June 3rd. Head here for album links and all the CJ socials and here for tix to the Eddie Japan show.