It makes sense that a melodic architect of the heart and mind like Julia Bardo would name her debut album Bauhaus, L’Appartamento. Unlocking a space of her own after laying foundations in a foreign land, the album is an intimate bell jar containing the twists and turns of her journey so far from Brescia, Italy, to a new life in Manchester, England. Bauhaus, L’Appartamento traces Bardo’s unfolding emotions and thought processes along the way, and ultimately finds her in absolute confidence, both musically and personally, as she finally embraces her cultural identity in her new home. “These days I want to scream to the world ‘Sono Italiana!’ without feeling ashamed,” she affirms of the tension release. “I am an Italian woman; my emotions are raw, real and always at the front. I am how I am, and don’t need to explain myself.”
The COVID-19 pandemic grounded Bardo in lockdown far from family and her former life in Italy, and ultimately proved the common saying ‘absence makes the heart grow stronger.’ Between painting, writing love letters to her home, and watching the dreamlike and artistic films of Federico Fellini or Michelangelo Antonioni, homesickness crept in and the clouds of a once complex relationship with her birthplace began to part. “Bauhaus, L’Appartamento is about loneliness, solitude, separation…but also unconditional love,” Bardo reveals of the record’s overarching themes. “Family, emotional dependency, mental health issues, feelings of emptiness and numbness, feelings of not being enough, inability to be in control of my own emotions, self-doubt, self-reflection, past traumas and dealing with them, the joy to be found in new beginnings, and learning to accept yourself.”
Disarming listeners with its honesty, Bardo’s early 2020 debut EP Phase was deeply personal, each song unfurling like the pages of a diary. Bauhaus, L’Appartamento continues that tradition within its seductive and freewheeling alt-rock temperament and unflinching melancholy. “Music for me is sad or sexy. Never happy,” she affirms. Any remaining walls are brought tumbling down with layers of rhythm guitar and a wild heart on her sleeve. The album brings focus to feeling and sees Bardo unconsciously uniting art with everyday life as she grows closer to discovering her true self. “The name ‘Bauhaus, L’Appartamento’ comes from the apartment complex I lived in when demoing the album’s songs,” she recalls. “L’appartamento means ‘flat’ in Italian; it was important to include my roots in the title, it’s a big part of myself and my personality.”
Recorded on tape with Bardo’s band between the knick-knack covered walls of Greenwich, England’s Vacant TV studio, Bauhaus, L’Appartamento was produced and mixed by Younghusband’s Euan Hinshelwood, with engineering and mixing by Ric James (Foals, Yowl, Toy). Each track opens a new door. In the resonant and memorable opener “The Most,” Bardo is bold in her declaration of romance and devotion (“when I love you the most, I’m blinded and I’m pure”), while the twinkling, gauzy guitars of “Do This To Me” find her world-weary and desperate for resolution (“I can cope with solitude, but it seems like I’m suffering”). The off-kilter distortion of “Impossible” and its spoken word in her native tongue, meanwhile, see Bardo’s Italian roots become entwined with the ‘80s and ‘90s American artists who continue to inspire her—musicians like The Pixies, Yo La Tengo, Violent Femmes, Pavement, Sonic Youth, and Duster—and the upbeat “No Feeling” snaps with the dynamic bite of PJ Harvey or St Vincent. On Bauhaus, L’Appartamento, Bardo melts these sounds and influences with her own hypnotic grunge and melodic soul to create a musical identity of her own.
Proof that getting your shit together is the same in any language, and music transcends physical planes, nothing is lost in translation whether Julia sings “this is not love, this is much more,” on “Love Out Of Control,” or when she speaks up for causes close to her heart. She raised awareness for the importance of mental health with last year’s single “It’s Okay (To Not Be Okay),” joined other women to celebrate the life and work of Nico in her beloved Hebden Bridge Trades Club (another home from home since performing there as a former member of the band Working Men’s Club), and embraced inclusive opportunities for the under-represented as Italy’s winner at the Music Moves Europe Awards presented at 2021’s Eurosonic.
Bauhaus, L’Appartamento firmly establishes Bardo’s musical adventurousness and prowess, and marks a cathartic and self-affirming moment for an artist who found her voice by realizing it’s been there all along. By embracing her vibrant emotions, her Italian heritage, her multifaceted complexities, and the bumps on her path to personal resolve, Bardo has created a compelling and singular space for herself. “I hope 2021 will finally be my year, touring, meeting new people, and being happy.”