Texas artist Jana Horn has quickly and confidently settled into her role as an indie rock singer-songwriter. Her second album, The Window Is the Dream, comes only one year after 2022 debut, Optimism, and creates a warm, intimate atmosphere that feels like a gathering around a campfire with amusing company. Several musicians from the Austin music scene, such as Jared Samuel Elioseff, Adam Jones, Daniel Francis Doyle, and Jonathan Horne (who produces some genuinely inventive guitar work here) have a hand in this record, but it’s mainly Horn’s up-close-and-personal vocals and familiarly vague songwriting that emit the most feeling, coaxing the listener into her introspective and highly imagistic world.
However lofty by nature, these songs often find steady ground, especially on the brilliantly catchy “Days Go By”, or the stand-out “Songs for Eve”, with its hypnotic ostinatos lapping backstage while strange guitar work brings immediacy to its hazy counterparts, transitioning the dreamy song into something more hypnopompic.
Despite the sonic coziness, there’s an overarching detachment to these tracks. For example, “After All This Time” and “In Between” offer wonderful melodies served with a somewhat slacker attitude, but following their loose structures and delivery can feel like running after a kite, grasping the air for something relatable. Is this because Horn lets approach dictate the impact of her ideas? Her lyrics are no less vague than contemporaries operating in the alt- folk sphere and her songs employ enough repetition, esoteric experimentation, and memorable one-liners to keep the ears attuned. Yet however uninhibited her songs feel, Horn’s indifference to dynamic intensity reins her otherwise bold ideas into a kind of one- note, philosophically psychedelic chill-out record.
While this lack of dynamic intensity may be a turn-off for some listeners, it’s clear that Horn has carefully crafted a cohesive mood and atmosphere. The Window Is the Dream’s closing ballad, “The Way It Was”, shows how she can build to a satisfyingly emotional climax, removing the wall of obscurity that inhibits connection to much of the album while embracing songwriting traditions in her own commercially questionable way.
Another way to look at this oddly delicious cardboard-flavored record is that it forces the listener to relax, to settle into a cozy tedium, an appreciation of the slow that feels like the simple peace of small-town living. What ultimately pays off, though, is that the mood is care- free by persistence, and one feels compelled to settle into its patient tempos.
In a recent interview with Paste, Horn said that she encouraged the collaborators on this record to “exist in the room and let them speak for themselves and try not to do so much steering”, though she sounds in full control of her performances, guiding their emotional core like the architect of a dam guides a river. That’s the fourth simile I’ve used in this review; a testament to how The Window Is the Dream inspires rich imagery.