Born in the small Texan city of Glen Rose, Jana Horn made a huge splash back in 2022 with the release of her acclaimed debut album, Optimism, written at a time, “when I was in no place at once and everything was slipping through my hands like a wet fish”. For the follow-up, The Window Is The Dream, released earlier this month via No Quarter, Jana found herself in a different headspace, an album written, “in one room, essentially. When you have nowhere to go, you go into memory, and memories of dreams”.
The creation of The Window Is The Dream came from a slightly odd beginning, a period where Jana was engaged not in songwriting but in creative writing, and almost entirely removed from music, Jana recalling how, “the radio in my car broke, I don’t have streaming services and my laptop doesn’t work well”. While you might therefore expect the resulting album to be one of story-telling and scene settings, the reality is almost the opposite, a record of abstract imagery, as she puts it, “I’m not interested in presenting a diary. I’d like you to feel your way through it”. Recorded between New York and Austin, the album saw Jana team up with a raft of collaborators old and new, allowing her to paint her songs with an array of new brushes, offering a deeper dive into Jana’s conscious rather than the stark beauty of her debut. The result is a record of greater experimentation and variety, obvious from the dreamy strains of the opening track, Leaving Him, which builds from muted guitars into a playful technicolour splash, all meandering bell-like keys and textural percussive splashes, reminiscent of Eerie Wanda or Babehoven. Elsewhere the recent single, Days Go By is a gorgeously modern-sounding folk song in the style of Naima Bock or This Is The Kit, while The Dream is a stunningly good take on the moment your eyes spring open in the morning, all peculiar rhythms and meandering guitars creating a semi-lucid space for lyrical exploration. Particularly wonderful is the penultimate track, Energy Go, a hazy slice of spacy folk, as the rhythmic loop of the guitar is cut through by smouldering electric-guitar flourishes and bright, minimal ringing piano notes. The record reaches a close on possibly its most straight-talking moment, The Way It Was, a piano ballad, all warm fuzzy keys and poised vocals crackling with emotion as Jana reflects on a relationship that shouldn’t have started but you’re still sad is over, “didn’t know how to stop my heart, from pouring into, a glass that was full. Never would have had enough, but now that you have, all I want is to go back to the way it was”. Jana set out to make an album that didn’t wear its story too openly, yet in doing so she has created something wonderfully malleable, you don’t need the details to make Jana’s story fit your own. The Window Is The Dream is one of those magical records that seems to meet you halfway, a sonic mirror that reflects back a piece of yourself you might not even have realised you needed to see.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Jana Horn?
My parents get a kick out of asking Alexa this. She thinks I was one of the last to go in the Salem Witch Trials. I don’t mind the accusation.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I wore a sequined shirt, like a disco ball. I wore make up. My grandmother put lipstick on me backstage. I was singing on the Johnnie High Country Music Revue in Dallas, where there were auditions and call backs. I’d made it to the stage. I sang “Born to Fly” by Sara Evans, “Some Days You Gotta Dance” by the Dixie Chicks. I was probably ten years old.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
There’s something tidy about it, how you only need yourself. How a song can appear, from nowhere. Magic. Though I didn’t set out to make it, really. I was singing before I could talk. It’s what I had to work with.
FTR: What can people expect from the Jana Horn live show?
I try to go into performances with some amount of not knowing what to expect, myself. If I prepare too much, the songs don’t sing. I like to work with silence, space. To let it have some say in the room. I hope to leave a show feeling like it was to some extent co-created with the other elements at play. Like the hand-dryer coming from the stage-side bathroom at a show in Salt Lake City.
FTR: What’s next for Jana Horn?
I don’t think ahead so much. It can be hard to remember that anything is happening, or is going to. But at the moment, I’m working through a novel project for my MFA thesis. I have a few new songs. I’m revisiting old ones, thinking of making them new, of revision and revisiting, in general, as a practice in forgiveness.
They Listen To…
Broadcast – You Can Fall
This one, yes, and many others of hers. Her melodies which seem to tell the story differently than the song, or to question it.
The Raincoats – Shouting Out Loud
The beat, the heart!
Caetano Veloso – Coração Vagabundo
What I pretend I sound like, as I finger the top two strings of my classical guitar, like a bass.
Chilly Gonzales – Gogol
Something I return to, again and again, this album. There’s nothing quite like it. It is like the sound belying everything else, if we could hear it, hang onto it.
Richard & Linda Thompson – The End Of The Rainbow
Or maybe “The Great Valerio”— these songs which have a humor, a gravity, a feeling that something is at stake.
The Window Is The Dream is out now via No Quarter. For more information on Jana Horn visit https://www.janahorn.com/.