Private Playlist: Julianna Barwick recommends music with emotion and experimentation

By Julianna Barwick

Julianna Barwick. Photo by Julianna Barwick

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.

Julianna Barwick is a composer, vocalist and producer who has performed with artists including Yoko Ono, The Flaming Lips, Philip Glass, and Ikue Mori. Barwick spent more than a decade building a devoted following in New York with her loop-based compositions for voice and electronics. But in 2016, she decided to start fresh in LA. Her new album, “Healing Is A Miracle,” is her first since making the move, and features collaborations with Jónsi, Mary Lattimore, and Nosaj Thing.

For this edition of Private Playlist, Julianna Barwick chooses her favorite new music which mixes emotion and experimentation.


Right now, I'm settling into month 7.5 of the pandemic, and I feel like a lot of people I know finally just had to get out of town. I went on a two-week-long trip [in early October], and it was the first time I'd been out of LA since February. It was nice to get a little perspective and to get out of the normal everyday sludge of the pandemic. And while I was on this trip, two of my best friends released records.


I connected with "Pine Trees" from Mary Lattimore's new record the most. I think it was the first song I heard from the record, and it's still the one that really sweeps me away. It sounds so mystical and otherworldly, all the typical terms. We've toured together a bunch of times and done a lot of things together, and I told her, "I think 'Pine Trees' is my favorite song of yours ever." I just love it.


Jónsi hasn't put out a new solo record in almost a decade or something, and he just went for it trying new things on “Shiver.” I really enjoyed hearing him take all sorts of different directions. But as a long-time fan of his, I couldn't help but connect the most with the track "Sumarið sem aldrei kom." It's mostly his vocals, stacked and layered. It’s almost hymnal; it’s what I love most about his voice. He hits all the different registers. He can do those very high sounds, but he has this awesome middle tone that he sings in, and he hits that in the song. I’m pretty sure he has my favorite singing voice on Earth, and if you also love Jónsi's voice, It's like a long bath of stacked, beautiful vocals. I just think it’s absolutely gorgeous.


I'm not even sure how I started listening to Bullion, but I love his stuff. I had never heard him before, and I think it just came up on a playlist or something like that. “We Had A Good Time” is the first song I heard, which is the title track of an EP he put out this year. I listen to a lot of music in that world, like Four Tet and Caribou and Tourist. And what's interesting about his music is that it has those familiar bouncy electronic sounds that I like. But there was also this throwback, Christopher Cross kind of vibe or something that felt really timeless. I don't know if it's his voice that triggers that kind of reaction, or if it's the tropical, lilting vibe of the music, but I just love it. I love every track on that EP.


KLLO are two cousins from Melbourne, Australia. I spent most of 2018 listening to their last release. I love electronic R&B, and straight-up R&B, deeply. And Chloe Kaul's voice is so sultry and effortless. They put out a new record this year called "Maybe We Could." My favorite track, as of today, is "1 Up." I love the danciness of it, and her vocals are so smooth.


Kelly Lee Owens's new album is called "Inner Song." She has this very quiet, sort of demure singing voice. But then her songs will have this buildup, and you feel like you're at a rave all of a sudden, and you're rocking out to it. She seems to be a total master of all her machines. And on a deeply personal note, I introduced her music to a good friend of mine who passed away last year. I was hanging out with her when she wasn't doing well. I bought her a little Bluetooth speaker and I said, "What do you want to listen to?" And she said, "Kelly Lee Owens." So her music means that much more to me.


The new Perfume Genius is another one I've listened to many, many, many times this year. It's super-ambitious, and he nails it. One of the things that impresses me most about the record is Mike Hadreas's use of all of his different voices. And I know some people don't like it when musicians or bands do that, but I love it. Making music has a lot to do with fantasy, at least for me, so I really tap into what he's doing there. He's able to express so many different emotions. My heart hurts when I hear some Perfume Genius songs; it really gets me, it squeezes my heart.

Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:

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La Santa Cecilia's La Marisoul finds hope for the future in music
Bob Mould seeks artful inspiration from Janelle Monáe, Elliott Smith, and the Byrds
San Cha believes we can create, no matter our circumstances
M. Ward is listening to music by his influences’ influencers
Alice Bag is doing the live music withdrawal dance
Madame Gandhi on Fela, feminism, and the bravery of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell
Aimee Mann looks past the snark to appreciate Steely Dan’s craft
Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on finding solace in Gil Scott-Heron
Madame Gandhi on Fela, feminism, and the bravery of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell
TOKiMONSTA is rediscovering her love for the guitar
Jeff Parker is busy studying music in hibernation mode
Dorian Wood is walking a tightrope and trying not to look down
Thundercat on the importance of albums as a journey
Neon Indian shares music for your inner monologue
Mia Doi Todd recommends space-age sounds and Brazilian tunes
Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy offers an earthy soundtrack for the homebound
Chris Cohen shares Algerian synth funk, avant jazz, and more far-out sounds
Inara George shares tips for raising music-literate kids during quarantine
Go Betty Go’s Nicolette Vilar shares her love of Mazzy Star, Dusty Springfield, and more
Mary Lattimore is communing with musical kindred spirits
Ndidi O selects music for a melancholy autumn