This entire record is not sugar coated like the opening track is. “Sugar Coated” may be dripping with catchy pop hooks and Jessie Jones’ sweet, cavity-inducing voice but she calls you out, “yes you” as she says. So, whoever “you” are, you must have messed up royally. She wrote a song about “you” and now it’s time for you “to kiss the ground that she [I] walks on.”
As I mentioned, Jessie Jones’ self-titled debut record isn’t sugar coated. It’s full of surprises. If you think she has the pop thing nailed, just wait until “La Loba.” You don’t really know where it’s going when it starts but I can promise you it doesn’t finish where it starts or where you could predict it to finish. She tells a story alongside a violin or a fiddle, about a woman who is old and covered in dust and cobwebs, powerful, a she-wolf who is a vagabond, playing tricks and seducing anyone in her path. Some 6 minute songs aren’t worth the entire 6 minutes but I promise you, this is.
Is there a hint of 90’s girl rock in this? Yes, I think there is. “Butterfuly Knives” could fit just as well into the movie Clueless as anything else but when you think you’ve married the 90’s sound in this track, she grabs the folk undertones of this song and amplifies them. This is something I really adore about this record. You can’t pin a song based on the first minute. Usually, if I’m not into the first minute, I don’t give the rest of the song a listen but the first minute of this song doesn’t sound anything like its guts. Especially the last few seconds. They fit bizarrely with “Butterfly Knives” but ease seamlessly into the candy track “Make it Spin.”
The changes in tempo, mood, and style are refreshing. The first song I heard was “Sugar Coated” and I’m relieved all of her songs don’t sound exactly like this. I couldn’t handle 10 or 12 sweet, melt in your mouth songs. Instead, she weaves in folk, reggae (sorry, but “Prisoner’s Cinema” is half reggae/half psychedelic) and “Lady La De Da” has a world music flavor. It’s ethnic and feels hippie dippie. She subtly rides out this style through the entire song. It’s just enough. Not too much.
The truly cathartic experience it took to get Jones to where she is now involved the deterioration of Feeding People, a band she was the front woman for, an exodus from society in which she met “three little witchy girls” who begged her to play Katy Perry and Dolly Parton, and a rebirth of Jessie Jones, the way she should be.
“Nightingale” is a show of her dramatic sense, she references “three daughters, they own the water.” Could she be referring to the very same three witchy girls who requested classic pop and country/folk from Jessie Jones on her journey away from society? Is this song a story of her leaving society for three years? I’m not sure if I’ll ever know but I don’t think I need to. Jones has me sold. I appreciate her mystery. It doesn’t leave me frustrated, it leaves me with questions I can ponder not only about her music but about myself.
Post hiatus, Jessie Jones has spanned at least 5 decades of style and musical appreciation. I know I mentioned her 90’s style and some psychedelic hippie dippie sounds, but it doesn’t end there. She reaches back even further into a 60’s and 50’s style for “Twelve Hour Man” which is the concluding track. “Mental Illness” reminds you she’s a human, a human making music.
For her first solo work, she should be proud. Her album is for everyone. Her album is must listen.
Photo Credit: Abby Banks (courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR)
Jessie Jones is out July 24th on Burger Records.