Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
The word 'artist' these days is used to refer to pretty much any musician, but few songwriters or performers approach their musical life with the degree of intense concern as does Jesse Sykes. Although originally a visual artist, Sykes sings that "only music sets my soul free." She's always, however, brought a deep visual sense to her textually (and texturally) rich songwriting.
Her new album was produced, recorded and mixed by Tucker Martine (Decemberists, The Long Winters) and Martin Feveyear (Mark Lanegan, Kings of Leon), with additional recording and production by Randall Dunn (Kinski, SunnO)))). Like, love, lust & the open halls of the soul is a musically deep piece of work, addressing themes of love, illusion, forgiveness, and the universality of the human experience. Her band, The Sweet Hereafter (along with guest appearances from Scandinavian cult songwriter Nicolai Dunger, jazz keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, and avant garde violinist/composer Eyvind Kang), explore new sounds with a confident ease. Open halls' guitar solos and driving rhythms could easily be lost gems cut by Crazy Horse between takes with Neil, yet the record retains the atmospheric beauty of much of Sykes' earlier work as well.
The band's musical growth has been mirrored by the evolution and maturation of Sykes' distinctive singing voice, which time has saturated with a weathered wisdom that connects to something beyond the singer and the song. And the visual aesthetic of Sykes' songwriting has never been more evocative. Listen closely to her stark descriptions of isolation, sometimes-swaggering toughness, fragile human emotion, and the possibilities of love, and you'll hear something that perfectly, tenderly, and surprisingly captures the feel of the 21st century so far it's the sound of vulnerability, and the sound of the best and most relevant piece of art Jesse Sykes has ever made.