Warm Human is the moniker of Meredith Johnston. The singer-songwriting producer’s new album, Ghastly, explores individuality, identity and social dislocation across eleven tracks of deeply personal, sludge-pop tracks. The blend between traditional songwriting craft with electronically treated beats and strings delivers an album of unforced personality.
The craft that’s gone into shaping each of the tracks contained on this full length debut shouldn’t surprise fans of the artist whose mixtape Worm Human hinted at the trajectory that Johnston seeks to pursue. Every bit as textured as that mixtape, the contents of Ghastly are fuller, deeper; there’s a body to the collection that adds weight to each perspective.
Oftentimes, lyrically Johnston squares herself against something. There’s a hypnotic melancholy, a moodiness that qualifies itself with universal totems. In ‘Hat’ the lyric that underpins the process is simple…. “I just want my fucking hat back”. Warm Human describes the reasons she hates ‘this place’ – birds fall, people fall. Discussions are only had to itemize the deficiencies in each other. Meanwhile, tonal shifts swirl gently on the synth while a beat diminishes, before finding direction and strength again. This is pop for sure. But the enquiry of self-worth is bleakly refracted. It’s a beautiful highpoint of the album.
Elsewhere, stripped back of instrumental support – Warm Human sounds like she’s standing naked at a mic. Johnston’s vocal work is in no way clinical or overly hygienic. However, there are moments of such documentary-like honesty that her matter-of-fact assessment is as blunt as it is beautiful. Here and there she addresses an abuser, or neglectful other, with such grace and precision, the brutalism of her appraisal is breathtaking.
The rawness of life is measured well in the production work. Almost every instrument passes through some distorting, glitching, or distant-sounding treatment. This texturing of the emotional map is smart. It clears paths to the lyrics which sit on top, or rise from below. The words, more often than not, are the most urgent aspect of any track.
Closing track, ‘Goodnight Texts’ sweeps through an almost orchestral appraisal of separation. However, at the song’s heart is a delicate, small soul, alone in a bed. Hesitating at the brink of full communication, full human contact. Again – Johnston roots the scene in a universal truth at a deeply fleshed-out scale. It’s haunting stuff that builds atmosphere for the silence left behind.
Ghastly is an album of the now. Tracks like ‘Y U’ and ‘Worst Kind Of Girl’ scan like the contents of any modern, western soul’s communication with the outside world. The sense of removal, the lack of connection – or even just the image that others project onto an individual – haunts this entire collection. However, for all the urgency here there is also a timelessness to the center of the stuff. Longing is not new. Loss is not new. The importance of self-reliance is not new. Warm Human knows this and she tethers the urgency of the now to traditions deeper than her own ego.
With Ghastly Warm Human has delivered a deeply personal account of life. This is what it feels like to be alive and working through this stuff. The energy it takes to survive and continue is expressed well. The distinguishing mark of this album is the grace, and the delivery of pain made beautiful. Club adjacent tracks deliver diary-like details of a life. The balance between internal and external landscapes is sound.
HURRY – BUY – WARM HUMAN MUSIC