Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Album Review: Jen Cloher - Jen Cloher

Jen Cloher
**** out of *****

A veteran and standout of Melbourne’s DIY music scene, Jen Cloher has been recording for years but things have flourshied recently. Anytime an established artist decides to release a Self-Titled album there is usually a major reason behind it, a shift in tone, a declartion of a new beginning or a sense of an artistic high point. On Jen Cloher, the artist seems to be touching on all of these fronts.

Recorded mostly live with minimal overdubs with a comfortable band of friends and like minded friends the disk has a relaxed feel to it, but never dips into melancholy, kept interesting by oft-kilter riffs and noisy flashes all around the lengthy lyrics and breathy vocals from Cloher.

The opener "Forget Myself" paints a paranoid picture around Patti Smith poems (a clear connection for Cloher) and a lonely lover as the players move in a later day Sonic Youth style ("Kool Thing" even gets a lyrical nod on "Kinda Biblical"). That bands smoother/lighter tones as well as the mellower Wilco is the reference point for the majority of the songs here including the softly swelling "Regional Echo". The nervous lyrics, angular tones and sense of intimacy draws the listener instantly in.

A standout number that combines all of these elements is "Sensory Memory". Slowly working up with Cloher's strumming, lyrically describing an intimate portrait of home life and living with a touring musician, balancing the mundane everyday home life, with the mundane toll of the road. The music swells and majestically soars to close, wrapping up gorgeously.  

Another influence comes with "Analysis Paralysis" a seven minute plus ramble that cracks open the artist head lyrically and also pulls in a Velvet Underground motoring sense of rhythm and cool. "Shoegazers" is a screed against critics "Most critics are pussies who want to look cool/Those who can, they do/Those who can’t review" that has a meaty muscular riff while "The Great Australian Bite" drifts in a glorious feedback sea.

"Strong Woman" does exactly what it sets out to do, but could use an extra injection of energy/abandon while "Loose Magic" starts folksy and might have ended better that way rather than injecting drums and guitars out of key. However, those are minor quibbles with, what is in the end, an excellent album from an artist who has a lot to say and sounds damn good saying it.

Cloher has long been in a relationship with Courtney Barnett (who also plays guitar here) and while Barnett has specifically named Cloher in songs it is easy to infer that 90% of these lyrics here are directed to her but that can be left to others as the feelings of unease, nervousness and wondering are universal. Cloher has increased her angst and pumped up her electric sound, fitting like a glove into those Patti Smith poems she mentioned early on, creating a successfully engaging disk in her own right with this self titled effort.
A great bandcamp find. Support the artist, buy the album, stream it here or below, and peep some video:

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