Johanna Kunin
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Johanna Kunin

Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Border Radio by Kurt B. Reighley (April, 2006)"

It seems fair to call rising local artist Johanna ("like the Bob Dylan song") Kunin a singer-songwriter. After all, she composes and performs her own material for voice and piano.

But Kunin is no coffeehouse canary sitting at a battered upright. She cites luminaries as diverse as jazz singer Betty Carter and Romantic composer Frédéric Chopin as discrete influences on her work. And until recently, she virtually eschewed one of the singer-songwriter's most valued tools: lyrics.

(read the whole article at )

- The Stranger (4/20-4/26/06)

"Is that the sun — or the tiniest hint of a spotlight? (Seattle Times, 2/24/06)"

Minneapolis transplant Kunin's airy, surreal full-length recording features an all-star backing band: Keith Lowe, Matt Chamberlain, Eyvind Kang — musicians who have worked with the likes of Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Bill Frisell. It's a testament to Kunin's talent — and her producer, the highly respected and connected Tucker Martine (Laura Veirs, the Long Winters) — that these musicians recorded with this unknown. Martine calls her "one of Seattle's new secret weapons."

(read the whole article at ) - Seattle Times

"Notable Shows (Seattle Weekly, 12/7-12/13/05)"

A soft-voiced singer/songwriter with plenty of sweetly sad things to say, Kunin is a fairly new Seattleite (since '99) who came for Cornish and hasn't left yet. Her off-kilter, jazz-influenced pop style has plenty of promise; we hope she's here to stay. - Seattle Weekly

"Up and Coming (Portland Mercury, 12/1-12/7/05)"

Seattleite Johanna Kunin's got a great set of pipes on her, and the fairy-tale production touches of collaborator Karl Blau sets her material apart from more standard solo acoustic fair. - Portland Mercury

"Seattle Times (January, 2006)"

Johanna Kunin is an extraordinarily gifted singer. - Seattle Times

"Notable Shows (Seattle Weekly, 8/24-8/30/05)"

Think Joni Mitchell times Beth Orton divided by peaceful open spaces. - Seattle Weekly

"City of the Morning (2005)"

Johanna Kunin is a strong force and her confidence really comes through...Her arrangements and melodies are perfect. I would give anything for a sliver of her talents. - Damien Jurado (

"Make Way for the Sexy Librarians (May, 2006)"

excerpt from "Make Way for the Sexy Librarians"
by Bryan Waterman
(read the whole article at

Listening to Kunin at Parkside Lounge on Wednesday, I leaned over to ask my concert companion, “What is it exactly that separates her from Sarah McLaughlin?”

Something does set her apart. Kunin’s lyrics aren’t just darker, they’re a little more intense without getting bogged down in the personal or narrowly topical. Fans of feminist folkrock might very well find themselves mesmerized by Kunin’s songs, but like Veirs she’ll refused to be so ghettoized. Above all, what saves Kunin from sliding downhill toward Enya is the same Seattle DIY vibe you get from Veirs, Blau, or Phil Elvrum. She plays ancient keyboards, uses multiple mics for freaky effects, fiddles around with her own electronic noises, and begins her songs with extended overlapping vocal loops. If she has a predecessor it’s Anderson rather than Amos.

In contrast to Veirs, Kunin played a solo show, and the Parkside Lounge seemed the perfect space for her set. The dive bar’s little back room, with round-top tables, a couple barstools, and a long bench along the side wall, has a run-down cabaret feel...Behind the performer hangs a shimmering wall of red metallic streamers; with the lights down, it looks like something from The Gong Show. Behind Kunin, who’s breathtakingly gorgeous, it sparkled like a sea of rubies. She should pack one of those around with her.

I bought a copy of Clouds Electric from her after the show. It’s beautifully produced and beautifully packaged and well worth your effort to seek it out. (She did have copies of Kelp! #21, too, but by that point my CD budget was spent.) I told her I’d first heard her only a couple weeks earlier on Doug Schulkind’s show. Her song “Phantom” had stopped me short, made me put away whatever I was working on and toggle to the accuplaylist. Over a piano line that sounds like a fucked-up version of “Where Do I Begin (Theme from Love Story),” she lays down haunting lines, every pause in her phrasing offering a twist on the previous moment’s meaning: “I could almost laugh / All your buckets of tears / And all your clouds electric / They shatter every thought into fragments / And turn every feeling into sand / All but the spirit of what is now / Lost.” Captivated, I ran a web search, discovering — without much surprise — her close ties to Veirs, Blau, Martine (whom Schulkind rightly considers a genius, he told me over email), the violinist Eyvind Kang, and the others. I searched for Kunin’s tour dates and was gratified that she’d be in town so soon, only a few nights after I already planned to see Veirs. New York served as a trade-off spot for the two tours, in fact. Kunin had been traveling in support of Blau, who now crossed over and hooked up with Veirs’s train. It’s a shame the two stellar shows couldn’t have been combined, giving us a more complete view of what looks, from the outside, like a fully fueled collective enterprise, but that just may have been too much sexy librarian vibe for any one venue to handle.

- The Great Whatsit


1. "Clouds Electric" (self-released, 2006)
- produced by Tucker Martine (the Decemberists, the Long Winters, Jim White, Laura Veirs, Jesse Sykes, Mudhoney)
- airplay on KCRW (on Morning Becomes Eclectic, among other shows), KEXP, WFMU, KZSU (#6 on airplay charts in August, 2006), among others

2. "Sighlens" (Kelp! Monthly #21, 2005)
- split album with Garrett Devoe of Pure Horsehair
- airplay on college radio including KZSU (#1 on airplay charts in April, 2006)

3. "Up North" EP (self-released, 2005)

4. "Ball Of Wax Audio Quarterly Vol 2" (2005)
- compilation

5. "Ball Of Wax Audio Quarterly Vol 4" (2005)
- compilation


Feeling a bit camera shy


Midnight tangos with ghosts, journeys into the minds of suicidal insects, childhood memories set off-kilter by dreams: reality is sometimes elusive but always uniquely beautiful in the world of singer-songwriter-pianist Johanna Kunin’s melodic meditations. She may sing you an infectious pop song, but not without distinct twists of harmony and turns of phrase that set it refreshingly off the beaten singer-songwriter track. She also possesses the kind of sadly angelic voice that compels you to follow on whatever journeys she has in mind, strange though they may be.

Born in southern Illinois and raised in Minneapolis, Johanna Kunin began playing the piano before she started grade school. Her first attempts at songwriting, however, came more recently, about a year after her 2002 graduation from Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts. While at Cornish, Johanna dedicated herself to mastering the art of vocal improvisation; eschewing lyrics to focus on further developing her knack for spontaneous melody. So it came as a surprise both to her and her former professors when she started writing songs that not only had words, but also a distinctly pop flavor.

Soon, with just three completed songs under her belt, Johanna Kunin was named one of eight recipients of the 2004 Jack Straw Artist Support Program recording grant. She used this award to record “Sigh Lens,” which went on to become issue #21 in K Records artist Karl Blau’s underground audio periodical Kelp! Monthly. “Sigh Lens” reached #1 on Stanford station KZSU’s airplay charts in April, 2006.

Johanna Kunin's self-released debut full-length "Clouds Electric" came out in August of this year to glowing reviews and radio play on such respected independent stations as KCRW, KEXP and WFMU. The record was produced by Tucker Martine in between projects with the likes of Mudhoney, Laura Veirs, the Long Winters, Jim White, and the Decemberists. "Clouds Electric" features a veritable dream-team of backing players including drummer Matt Chamberlain, violist Eyvind Kang, and bassist Keith Lowe. As Tom Scanlon of the Seattle Times put it, "It's a testament to Kunin's talent — and her producer, the highly respected and connected Tucker Martine — that these musicians recorded with this unknown."

Johanna was invited to play Bumbershoot 2006 as well as What-the-Heck Fest 2006. She completed a five-week US tour in May and June of this year, and has completed several tours of the Pacific Northwest. She will tour the west coast in December.