I Loved You So from Julie Amici & Dean Mueller
2020 has been a bit of a hit and miss year for a lot of indie’s premier folk artists, but in the stylish crossover LP I Loved You So from Julie Amici & Dean Mueller, fans of alternative Americana get the tall drink of water they’d been craving most this spring. Hybridity has been all the rage in American music lately, and in I Loved You So, these two indie singer/songwriters push the limits of fusion balladry and experimental grooves as much as they can whilst staying true to a classic melodic concept, and for their efforts, it’s the audience that winds up rewarded with harmonies as sweet as freshly-picked apples.
“Blind Beulah,” “Daddy,” the title track and “Faces in Things” conflict with the aesthetical comprisal of “Hot in the City,” “Frame it on the Wall” and “Read Through Tears” quite profoundly, but I love the artistic contrasts they display just the same. Julie Amici & Dean Mueller aren’t household names to the bulk of American audiences, but in this record, they aren’t letting their lack of recognition prevent them from getting as compositionally wild as their skillsets can allow for (which is a lot more than I can say for the many major label artists I’ve reviewed recently).
The vocals are incredibly commanding throughout I Loved You So, but in “Sardines and Saltines,” “Turn the Key” and “Read Through Tears” especially, they’re telling us more through the harmonies they contribute to than they do via the lyrics they sing. Tonality, as well as authentic melodicism, are clearly of upmost importance to Julie Amici & Dean Mueller, and in a time where Americana is sounding more eclectic than ever, it’s nice to come across a duo that has some serious interest in maintaining (and, inevitably, building upon) the genre’s pillars.
It would be really interesting to hear stripped-down versions of “I Wanted You,” “Frame it on the Wall” and “Hot in the City” sometime, as I think all three of these songs don’t need much more than their eroticized serenades to feel and sound as affective as they do here. I Loved You So doesn’t leave much room for sonic indulgence, but in the few instances where it does include a bit of compositional excess, I found it pretty interesting that, even with additional bells and whistles, the key components of their sound remain the strongest features present to us. Simply put, it’s got the polish to impress pop fiends, but the anti-artificial disposition to win over critics as well.
You don’t have to be the biggest Americana fan on earth to fall in love with the harmonies contained in the eleven songs on Julie Amici & Dean Mueller’s I Loved You So, but for those who can appreciate this genre for all of its classically endearing brilliance, it’s an album that belongs on your shelf this coming April without question. Amici & Mueller don’t hold anything back from us in this record, and I’m truly hoping this won’t be the only occasion on which they share a studio together.