When two singer/songwriters as skilled as Julie Amici & Dean Mueller get together, you know that some sparks are going to fly, and that’s exactly what happens shortly after pressing play on their new joint album I Loved You So. I Loved You So has all the hallmarks of a brooding, immensely reflective folk-rock effort, but in songs like its title track, Amici & Mueller make it very clear to us that they have no interest in following the rules and conventions commonly associated with contemporary alternative folk music.
There’s a reflective tone to this number offered up amidst lighthearted swing, and though that same tone is recycled in the slow-rolling “Sardines and Saltines,” it doesn’t sound as though it’s been simply repurposed with a new melody and a different groove. In this album, these two players cover as much ground as they can within eleven of the more eccentric songs you’re likely to hear before the spring season is over, yet their efforts sound anything but overambitious – on the contrary, their willingness to reflect honest emotionality through both texture and tonality is a breath of fresh air this year.
The guitar tones that Amici & Mueller offer in “Blind Beulah” and “Read Through Tears” definitely speak to the moodiness of the adjacent lyrical content, and in the case of tracks like “Daddy” and “Frame it on the Wall,” they advance the narrative more than the verses ever could have on their own. The master mix is, in general, a little more straightforward in style than I would have expected it to be given the highbrow caliber of these compositions, but I suppose that it would make sense to take a simplistic approach to the black and white framework of songs like “Hot in the City” and “Turn the Key.” In the future, I’d love for there to be just a touch more emphasis on the vocal elements in Julie Amici & Dean Mueller’s work, mostly because, in all honesty, I found their interplay in this album to be the main reason why the whole of the tracklist is as unforgettable as it is.
Fans of the emerging new wave of Americana can’t go wrong with Julie Amici & Dean Mueller’s I Loved You So this spring, and unless their competitors in the underground can muster up something solid between now and December 31st, I think this LP will remain the top contender for best eclectic/folk record of the 2020s so far. Independent artists are taking all of the thunder away from the mainstream this year, and though this is far from a perfect album from start to finish, there’s a case to be made that it didn’t need to be to make a big statement about its composers. Amici & Mueller seem destined to make some really beautiful music together, and if they can ride the present momentum they’ve got into the studio for sophomore follow-up to I Loved You So, they’re going to see and hear plenty of applause from audiences around the world.
by Bethany Page