Jessica Bailiff CD review [Kranky]

Music Reviews
Jessica Bailiff CD review [Kranky]
Nov 5, 2002, 22:21


Jessica Bailiff's latest self-titled disc (like Peter Gabriel early in his career, the Toledo songwriter doesn't mess with titles) is strides ahead of her 1999 self-titled debut. With arch, avant-folky mystery draped around her compositions like an iridescent peacock-hued scarf, it's easy to lump her in with folks like Mary Timony or even the Cocteau Twins in their moments when they sounded like they were battling personal demons instead of chasing fairies. But I think her closest musical counterpart is Ben Chasny on his Six Organs of Admittance releases—simple songs transformed through mood and vision. “Hour of the Traces” mixes a muffled, martial drumbeat with a quavery, crotchety violin line, while the chorus of whispers on “The Hiding Place” makes a simple song as organically disturbing as walking through a green forest turned suddenly blue-purple by a vivid sunset. Bailiff's singing is unforced, calm and sweet. Sometimes her words are crystal-clear but don't make much sense beyond evoking a dreamlike mood. Other times, you're sure you could figure out the context, if the vocals were just a hair clearer. It's that caginess that makes this record fascinating. Bailiff realizes that the line between pretty and bland is thin, taut, and easily crossed by a melody too saccharine, a lyric line too earnest. Others are barely able to stand on this artistic tightrope without wobbling, and here she is, fucking dancing all over it. Good deal. [Kranky]

-Cecile Cloutier

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