ALBUM REVIEW: jennylee - Right On!

ALBUM REVIEW: jennylee - Right On!

Genre: Indie Rock

Release Date: December 11, 2015

Label: Rough Trade Records

If ever was a personification of the perennially cool bass player, Jenny Lee Lindberg would be it. Providing bass support and background vocals for Warpaint, Lindberg, under her shortened moniker jennylee, has readied herself to take the spotlight with her debut solo album — a gothic, new wave love letter to the bands that have inspired her, mainly in her formative years.

Recorded over a span of two months at producer Norm Block’s personal studio, with help from fellow bandmate Stella Mozgawa on drums and Dan Elkan (of Broken Bells) on guitar, right on! expanded from a collection of raw demos, self-recorded during a break after Warpaint’s last tour, to a collection of 10 songs, drawing heavily from goth pioneers The Cure, Joy Division and Bauhaus.

Lindberg has expressed before that the album was about her personal frustrations — her struggles with unrealistic demands she places on her singing voice: “The album’s about being frustrated with me because I wasn’t allowing myself to just be for so long." Eventually, she came to terms with her own unique vocal qualities. “Eventually I asked myself, ‘What is your strong point? Go there.’ And when I started doing that, all of a sudden I didn’t hate the way my voice sounds.”

While right on! doesn’t deviate too far off from Warpaint’s sonic formula, it does traverse towards darker moods — her bass and drums being the driving factors that power her songs, with guitars and synth taking a backseat to give the atmosphere a crucial textural boost. A high point from the album is lead single 'never' — with its Peter Hook-like bass lines and guitar riffs reminiscent of 'Transmission', Lindberg sings “Never, never/Not for you, not for them”, conveying a personal intent to not be pushed around by others, or allow herself to be her own worst enemy by hindering her own creative expression. Despite its occasionally drab pace and gothic chord progressions, right on! is empowering and relatable all-round.

Other high points from the album includes 'boom boom' with a bass line inciting doom and tension, evoking Lindberg’s anxious feelings with the mantra "Society is anxiety/Is a misery/Is a misery". At the height of the song's tense buildup, an eventual release of guitars and synths creates a dreamy reprieve bringing sweet relief. 'long lonely winter' brings a slow burning introspective as Lindberg croons over reverberated synths, revealing a vulnerability that lures you in. A catchy goth dub beat in 'offerings' with its cheeky reference to Nirvana and The Beatles “Something in the way/He moves me” will literally have you moving by the end of the track.

Lindberg’s definite strength lies in crafting propulsive bass lines, but it doesn't particularly not translate well to the opening and closing tracks, respectively “blind” and “real life” which features no bass or drums. Both equally as drab and dreary, 'blind' drones on to no end — “Got no sun/Got no view” perfectly encapsulates it. 

As an opening track, its greatest strength does well to weed out casual listeners, but the most persistent or dedicated of her fanbase will soldier on to discover the bounty of tracks awaiting after the opener. 'real life' likewise does nothing musically interesting, allowing the album to fade to black with a forgettable strum of the guitar.

Further expanding upon Warpaint’s artsy atmospheric sounds, while layering in gothic new wave dance elements, right on! may not be for the upbeat or pop music inclined. But jennylee's exploration into sounds otherwise not touched upon by Warpaint demands praise in itself, even if the result is decidedly mixed. For the persistent listeners, there's plenty to enjoy, especially discovering the importance of solid bass lines and drum rhythms, which are all right on!

Rating: 7/10

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