Jess Locke: Universe

- Melbourne based singer-songwriter Jess Locke’s new album Universe     is a departure from the style of her previous releases. Gone is the     intimate, lo-fi cacophony of her minimalist indie-folk songs, in     place is a tight rock sound that manages to sound equal parts     polished and carefree. After years of recording sombre songs with an     acoustic guitar, this is new terrain for Locke and ultimately     another feather in her cap.     

With a lax sound reminiscent of Pavement, you get the sense that a veteran band is at work. The drums and bass perfectly compliment the simple songs with understated accompaniment. However, despite the rock-band aesthetic, there is something unmistakably intimate about the album. It could be the sad minor chords, the melancholic singing, the personal lyrics, or most likely, a combination of all three.

Locke’s lyrics expertly alternate between being philosophical and relatable. Lines like, “I feel better when I’m watching other people suffer” from Bitter/Better are simultaneously vitriolic, honest and funny. Destined to leave a mark, it’s a line that comes across as something adroitly macabre enough to have been written by Leonard Cohen. This is also highlighted on final track Border Security with irreverent lyrics that end the album on a strong note. Coalescing with this lyrical prowess, Locke also displays a penchant for pop hooks, with four chord songs that sound like mournful versions of Nirvana songs. Without offering a lot of variation, Universe is a cohesive collection of songs that fit together well. Although it’s probably worth avoiding if you’re feeling jaunty, Universe is a beautifully sad album that is sure to cheer you up.

- Jonathan Cloumassis.

Album Details

Album Title: Universe
Artist: Jess Locke
Record Label: (Pool House / Remote Control)