Friday, March 22, 2013

Jenny Besetzt - Only

Okay, been draggin' my feet long enough (blog's been AWOL for a month or so).  Upon reading in this week's Indy about Jenny Besetzt's "largely overlooked" LP, Only, I figured it's time to put my two cents in.  Criminally overlooked is more like it, as this is one of the best local releases in a LONG time. 

The thing that strikes you first about Jenny Besetzt is that they are, somehow, simultaneously drone-y and jumpy.  Their music envelopes you in a deep, comforting ambience.  But at the same time it's always moving, driving... sometimes at breakneck speed.  It's easy to get lost -- embedded in a trance-like state as they play -- but you never feel like you're standing still.  This comes thanks to what's basically a pretty punk-rock rhythm section paired with more of a shoegaze-style of vocals/guitar from frontman John Wollaber, and some pretty 90's-flavored indie-guitar from Brad Morton. 

That mix of more-or-less tried-and-true indie-rock tropes yields a surprisingly unexpected -- stunning, really -- outcome.  It's bright and dark and jagged.  Shards repeatedly pierce the gauzey atmosphere.  Little detours, experimental movements of sound, punctuate many of the songs before they can settle into something too comfortable (see the last half of both A Sudden Burden of Proof and In These Woven Streets Your Face Became the Fabric of This City).

There are some awfully catchy numbers, like the driving Always, the lovelorn Teenage Lions, and the thudding and bittersweet She Was an Evergreen Tree.  Songs like that last one and others call to mind 80s-90s Britpop (of the New Order or Swervedriver persuasion)... maybe that's just the cool synth foundation or the fact that Brad can sometimes sound a bit like Johnny Marr.  But they don't really sound derivative of that era.  And while there's an uplifting, optimistic feel to their sound (and song titles, see above), it comes with a deeper sense of awareness... that this is maybe all just bluster, and real life never really works that way (see They Were Full of Brave Illusions About Each Other). 

I was kinda waiting on lyrics from the band to write a more informed review, but really, the sound of Jenny Besetzt is what's so striking (sorry, John!), and what makes them stand out so much to me.  Jenny Besetzt is from Greensboro, but with a couple of members residing in the Triangle, they've been pretty much a mainstay on local stages.  Their live show is every bit as good as this CD, so go see them! (if you're reading this at the last minute, go see them tonight - March 22 - at the Pinhook with Lollipops and Wing Dam; I'm about to head on over)

UPDATED to add photos:
Jenny Besetzt and Lollipops were great as always.  Baltimore's Wing Dam filled the middle slot admirably, and were much more stripped down and raw rock'n'roll than the "bedroom pop" I'd read them being described as earlier.  Some pretty trippy photos of Lollipops below (read: unfocused and overexposed).

Jenny Besetzt

Wing Dam (nice shirt!)


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