Americana has been making quite a big comeback in the last couple of years, and if you’re curious as to why, you need to take a peek at what the underground has been submitting lately – and particularly what indie folk duo Julie Amici & Dean Mueller are releasing this coming April in I Loved You So. Much like their fellow Portlander Melissa Ruth, Amici & Mueller are driving home an Americana revival on the strength of fusion rhythms, jazz-inspired licks, bluesy vocals and a rock-style lyrical bite, and to say that their new album I Loved You So is a perfect amalgamation of the aforementioned influences would be putting it very mildly.
The title track, “Faces in Things,” “Turn the Key” and “Flannel Shirt” provide us a great melding of country and folk themes inside of songs that follow a pretty experimental blueprint, each in their own unique way, but none of these compositions sounds even remotely scattered or aesthetically overreaching in the least. If anything, there’s a wonderful blend of stylizations on this disc that I would have hoped to hear out of Julie Amici & Dean Mueller’s mainstream rivals this spring, but unfortunately have yet to experience outside of I Loved You So.
As instrumentally evocative as “I Wanted You,” “Frame it on the Wall,” “Hot in the City” and “Read Through Tears” are, the vocals these songs feature are always the most vibrant focal point for us to tune-in to. Amici & Mueller trade off on lead duties with Amici capturing more of the spotlight than her male counterpart does, but had they not shared the stage as democratically as they did in I Loved You So, I’m not sure that it would be nearly as evocative – nor as relentlessly captivating – as it is in the form we find it in here.
There’s an awesome fluidity to this tracklist that makes the music feel almost operatic in a couple of key spots, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I Loved You So is a progressive folk effort. “Blind Beulah” segues into “Turn the Key” and later “Faces in Things” as though the three songs were always meant to be joined in some kind of divine American medley, but whether we’re listening to them in the order Amici & Mueller intended or simply cherry-picking through the tracks one at a time, I think the emotional impact of their narrative here tends to remain the same.
Spring is now in full-swing, and from where I sit, I do believe you’d be hard-pressed to find another alternative-style Americana album quite as enthralling as Julie Amici & Dean Mueller’s I Loved You So is before the start of the summer season. This pair of eclectic folk musicians are definitely pushing the boundaries as much as they can in this record, and if they can find a way to continue their sonic experimentations without alienating fans of a more streamlined sound, I think they’ll have a good chance at breaking through to the mainstream early on in their career as a duo.