Don’t Breathe in Through Your Mouth, the latest offering from California natives The Juniper Berries, plays like a dream sequence. It features airy synthesizers, magical harmonies, and constant shifts in scenery and mood. While not strictly rooted in the 60s and 70s, it definitely draws inspiration from that period, while still remaining its own beast. Principle songwriter Joshua Stirm and his cohorts should be very proud of this extremely lush body of music. Every song has something special to offer.
On opening cut “Elbow Grease” the sound of a rain storm gives way to a soft guitar line. Singer Joshua Stirm sings the album’s title beautifully in a tone not unlike that of Muse‘s Matt Belamy. From here, the song grows into a wonderful hippy jam that snaps back and forth between funeral march and jovial romp with incredible ease.
“Interlude” is a fun trip that manages to call back to both 60s Brit-rock and blue grass in just over a minute. “Blacktop Asphalt” is a big sing-along and lighter igniter (yeah, I did that) waiting to happen. I don’t even know what the acoustic closer “Untitled (Sweet Complicated Dreams)” is about, but it’s so heartfelt, and delivered in such an earnest manner, that it almost brought me to tears.
The lyrics are bound to get the hipsters excited, but they’re just clear and poignant enough to appeal to a wider audience as well. Extensively quotable and effortlessly relatable, Stirm writes melancholic poetry about everyday life that far surpasses the shallow nature of most of his contemporaries.
If I had to fault one thing here, it would actually be two things, so get over it. The first is that the production is a little lacking. It’s ALMOST where it needs to be, but just a little bit of cleaning and a little more psychedelia would have brought this thing to the next level. On the same train of thought, the rhythm section could have been a LITTLE more fleshed out, a little tighter, just to give the grooves an extra sense of importance.
These are minor complaints though, and this is still both a very solid record and a promising debut from a talented songwriter and some very capable players.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson