‘Cactus Brain’ is the most recent release by Dublin based Indie-Folk group Blue Luna. Blue Luna, who formed several years ago during their time studying at BIMM Dublin, is the brain-child of Joanna Burns (Vocals) and Derek Byrne (Guitar). For recordings and live performances the band have enlisted help from Ali Greene (Cajon), Ciara Henry (Backing Vocals) and Hannah McKenna (Backing Vocals) to help bring their evocative songs to life.
‘Cactus Brain’ is a jangly folk heavy hitter from this band and on every repeat I discover a new line which sticks with me throughout the day. There is a stark contrast between the percussive yet airy guitar parts which propel the song forward and the slightly dark and melancholic lyrics. Lyricist Joanna delves deep into the realm of mental health and pulls no punches in discussing issues such as self-medication, self-harm and depression. In the pre-chorus we are treated to lush harmonies on the line ‘Water me down, down, down’. This lyrical content is playfully ambiguous and a play on words between the watering of a plant and the use of medication to dilute ones personality so as to fit social constraints. Lines in the chorus such as ‘You’ll be okay dear just go to sleep’ and ‘Ignore all the bruises you create’ are beautifully descriptive and paint a picture in the listeners mind of depression and self-harm. Towards the end of the tune we are left with a playful remark to lighten the tone,’ Please don’t wake me If I look dead’, when asked about the meaning of this line Joanna remarks ,”It’s a take on the insomnia caused by anxiety, I’m not actually dead, more figuratively dead from fatigue!”.
Recorded in Joanna’s home with the help of her father Eugene, this track has all the hallmark home recording traits we like to hear in songs of this style but there is also a sense of refinement which is refreshing. The guitar playing provided by Derek Byrne is relentlessly precise and sits beautifully below the vocals, carrying the song while knowing its place as a foundation for the vocals. Backing vocals provided by Hannah McKenna are delicate and provide a fantastic accompaniment to Joanna’s rich tone. What sells this song for me is the way Joanna uses her own accent and makes no attempt to cover it up. Right from the first word it is straight Dub, no question, a breath of fresh air. The use of a native accent is something we are seeing from a number of Irish artists at the moment, a few which come to mind are The Scratch, Fontaines D.C and Junior Brother. Hopefully this trend will continue, I love it.
Photo Credit: @Tivodar