One of my favorite things about Rum Bar Records is that Lou frequently loves a piece of music so much that he'll re-release it just to get it back out into the world. Many of my most-loved Rum Bar releases were CD reissues of albums that were highly deserving of being heard by the label's worldwide fan base. To that list, I can add Carissa Johnson's masterpiece Blue Hour Deluxe.
Blue Hour Deluxe includes all of Johnson's 2021 long player Blue Hour along with her band Carissa Johnson and the Cure-Alls' The Good EP and a collection of unreleased demos and alternate mixes called L'Heure Bleue, After Dark. The whole package comes in at a whopping 22 tracks, which is a heck of a deal for a $13 CD or $12 download. As I listened to Blue Hour Deluxe, I found myself perplexed that Johnson is not a household name in popular music. Blue Hour is an extraordinary album and clearly the work of one of the most talented songwriters and singers of present times. Musically, it's unlike anything else I've heard in quite some time — combining synth-driven new wave power pop with a dreamy modern rock edge and a singer/songwriter's intimacy. Largely inspired by the isolating time Johnson spent living in locked-down Los Angeles in spring 2020, the album is so intensely personal that it comes off like a musical diary. Yet that's what makes it so powerful. Johnson sings openly and honestly about loneliness, alienation, and the yearning to escape a suffocating existence. While these songs tell her own story, they are relatable on a universal level that transcends the specifics of pandemic isolation.
Recorded with producer Benny Grotto in Boston in 2021, Blue Hour is essentially a whole album full of singles (Johnson, in fact, has done music videos for every track). These songs are profound and emotionally stirring, yet all that substance never comes at the expense of big, satisfying hooks. Johnson is an incredible vocalist and a remarkable artist to boot. At a lean ten tracks, Blue Hour will leave you wanting more. Thus the bonus material here is highly welcomed. Knowing that Malibu Lou is going to push Blue Hour Deluxe with all his might, I anticipate a whole lot of people will be discovering this modern classic for the very first time in the coming weeks. If you find yourself as wowed as I've been, be sure to check out Johnson's YouTube channel and Bandcamp for your additional listening pleasure!