It's time for Valerie June.
After finally gaining widespread recognition for her 2013 release Pushin' Against a Stone, the Memphis, Tenn., singer is back with a new collection of songs entitled The Order of Time.
Building on a mix of blues, folk and Americana from her previous Dan Auerbach-produced release, The Order of Time is meditative and reflective, anchored by June's arresting singing voice and nimble guitar work. Accordingly, the intimate and perceptive songs require close attention to truly unravel.
True to the album's title, there's a quiet fixation on the temporal, right down to a granularity reflected in June's songwriting, which can often describe fleeting moments in rich, vivid detail.
"Time is really, really important," says June, talking to CBC Music. "Like these certain moments that happen in your life — your birth, your falling in love, your passing to the next phase, whatever that might be. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, but all those things it’s just a matter of time. All of it. And so, each of the songs, they each deal with so many different emotions and so many different feelings and I think it’s important because music is dealing with feeling, it’s like raw emotion ... you really just get one time to do anything, even if you are doing the same thing every day."
The Order of Time opens with "Long Lonely Road," a song that is autobiographical and chronological in nature. It combines an emotional journey of her familial experiences from church as a child in Memphis to her current home in Brooklyn with the merciless and inevitable passage of time.
"No matter what in your life as you go through your personal journey, you can have people join you in your life like your parents or your friends or your lovers or whatever it might be," says June, discussing the song. "You always are alone too, you know. You get to the end of your life and you have to leave you’re gonna do that alone."
Consequently, there's an undercurrent of closeness and intimacy in June's music, even when her lyrics are traversing galactic worlds as on "Astral Plane," a suitably shimmering song originally written for Bristol beatsmiths Massive Attack. The group eventually rejected the song for its project, but it's clearly their loss, as it is a highlight on The Order of Time.
"Shakedown" was the first single to emerge from the album, and in contrast to much of the album's low-key introspective mood, it's a veritable foot-stomper. Yet, June manages to retain an air of intimacy on this song, too.
"My dad sang on it, my brother sang on it," says June about "Shakedown," which also features the background vocals of close friend Norah Jones. "That really matters to me because I like the idea of family and I came from a singing family. Everybody sings in my family."
If there's a message to be taken from June on The Order of Time, it is to take the time to sweat the small stuff — and cherish it.