Right from the first note of Let It Stay, there’s a timid softness and ease into Brianna Kočka’s new album. Self-produced and primarily recorded at home with engineer and partner Justin Muffett, the album is collection of tracks that ask questions about attachment, love, loss, and a sense of foreboding joy in an uncertain world.
After playing at Big Turn Music Fest, Brianna decided to take a break. Ironically enough, the pandemic hit soon after and she spent the time stepping back from songwriting to focus on staying healthy, since she has an autoimmune disease. If there ever was a time to write music, it was then. But she couldn’t find inspiration and felt empty. It was Siri Undlin (Humbird) that ultimately pulled these songs out of Brianna by asking her to be apart of a songwriting circle in August. The goal was to write a song a day. These five songs came from that experiment and she knew right away, this felt like a record.
“All The Questions I Have Right Now”
The aforementioned start of Let It Stay is this flowerbed of soft tones and calm woodwinds. Her vocals slide in with questions, wondering when we are going to be able to be near each other again. The waltzy sway of the song is lushed over by accordion, luring you deeper into her words. Brianna shares the song was initially written about the quarantine and imaging how it was all going to happen. Everyone was filled with questions and this uneasiness of the future.
The song builds to a moment that Brianna shares was written to describe how her mind felt like it was unraveling. The juxtaposition between the lush and chaos happens with the fluttering of instruments just over halfway through. This moment of chaos expertly fades back into one final breath at the end. As an opening track, “All The Questions I Have Right Now” is that perfect sprout of genre-exploration that has you hooked for the rest.
The acoustic guitar and saxophone embellished song “Seasons” is a love song about self-witnessing. Much like Minnesota seasons, there’s a strong sense of push and pull.
“A lot of the love songs on this album have a mixture of foreboding joy, where it’s like, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you. Please don’t go. Please don’t go. Don’t go.’ I think “Seasons“ encapsulates that because you’re looking at the different seasons and how that relationship fits,” Brianna states.
As the pandemic has lasted through all 4 seasons, Brianna has experienced new stages with her partner, who moved in around the quarantine. They were forced into a new learning period of how the relationship works, especially in an isolated environment. You can hear that resilient strength behind her voice and in the brilliant line “All the changes, they won’t change us anyhow”.
“Make Me A Quiet Place To Lay” and “Some Thoughts On Stories And Sleep” further showcase how Brianna has a sturdy grasp on songs about intimacy. The harmonies laid like icing on her voice while the airy instrumentation underneath swings you gently through the tracks. It’s a well-produced soundscape that is glued together expertly in the five songs.
“The thing about making this album was I decided I was going to stop trying so hard to be something that I thought people wanted me to be and actually just trust my gut instinct.”
Ending the album is “Sunset Vignette”, a song filled with the gut instincts of Brianna. Her choices of almost whispering through the song at parts, the warm drums, the clarinet dancing around, and the balanced bass paint a delicate sonic picture that slowly builds. Holding on and holding on, the song ends with the line that inspired the title of the album “Let it stay, forever this way.” The wishful positivity and hopeful nature of those words are a good indication that we’re going to get through this.
Let It Stay
With the ability to plan a big show, Brianna is taking a more strategic approach this time around. She’s chosen to release her first limited edition, single-sided vinyl record without any outside funding. Since the songs all fit on one side, you’re able to enjoy the warmth of vinyl without having to deal with the process of getting up to flip it over. This album lends itself to vinyl, the warmth, the whispers, the instrumentation, all glide over your ears like the needle circles the wax.
Special mention to the musicians involved in bringing these songs to life, Adam Wozniak on bass, Lars-Erik Larson on drums and accordion, Adelyn Strei on woodwinds, Jimmy Barnett on background vocals, and Lightin’ Joe Peterson on organ.