Wow. I’m not sure what I expected from Jillette Johnson’s third album, It’s a Beautiful Day and I Love You, so…yeah. Wow. When or if the day comes that live, in-person music is again a thing, seeing her in concert will be a no-brainer.
Early Friday morn, when I first clicked play, I assumed the singer-songwriter of All I Ever See in You Is Me, her 2017 album that sported a Carly Simon sheen, would continue in the same vein. Instead, I was greeted by an atmospheric rock record with occasional country overtones, plus some David Bowie, Stones, Sheryl Crow and Oasis flourishes thrown in for good measure. It’s not as drastic a departure as, say, Maria McKee’s glam-infested Life Is Sweet was back in the day; if anything, it’s a logical extension of several All I Ever See in You Is Me tracks, including the title cut and “Not Tonight.”
Perhaps the best way to describe IaBDaILY: It’s less a singer-songwriter album and more a singer and her band – an important distinction. “Many Moons,” the lead-off track, is a perfect example. It’s a moody rumination on the invincibility we feel when young. “Oh to be 18 again….” (Who among us doesn’t look back with astonishment at some of the stupid situations we placed ourselves in?) If played solo at the piano or fleshed out with a tasteful arrangement, a la All I Ever See in You Is Me, it would work well – a good song is a good song, after all (and, as evidenced by my blog, I’m a sucker for singer-songwriters and tasteful arrangements, so I’d be happy). But in the hands of a crack band, the music goes from boozy to woozy to reflective, mirroring the lyrics each step along the way. That added dimension adds depth to “Many Moons” and the songs that follow, turning what would have been a good album into a great one.
The second track, “Angelo,” which finds Johnson and her compatriots channeling “Heroes”-era Bowie and prime Oasis, tackles the tragic passing of an acquaintance and the reality that there was little she could do to save him. “I didn’t know him well/But deep down I could tell what it cost/He was lost/Wings broken, arms open/Slumped over the seat/If anyone could help, it wasn’t me/It wasn’t me…” I never noticed it until her excellent cover of “Champagne Supernova” for the OurVinyl Sessions, but at times her voice possesses a Liam Gallagher-like quality – and it’s in full effect here, with the band giving her the perfect runway for her vocal flight.
The title track is another thing of wonder, opening with a stereotypical 1950s R&B/ballad riff that expands, bit by bit, into a message of unadulterated love: “It’s a beautiful day and I love you, I want you to know/I was just calling to tell you so/I was just walking around in the sun/Thinking about you, yes, you are the one for me, baby…”
There’s far more to the album than those three songs, of course. “I Shouldn’t Go Anywhere” finds Johnson alternating between self-pity and anger while drowning her sorrows at a bar; and “Jealous” – which conjures Globe Sessions-era Sheryl Crow – features lyrics about envy: “It’s a zero sum game, I know that’s insane/Someone else’s gain isn’t my loss/Someone else’s shine doesn’t darken mine/But I feel sometimes quite jealous.”
From what I’ve read, Johnson mined her own life experiences for the songs – and, in so doing, forged 10 mirrors that reflect ourselves back at us. Run, don’t walk, to the retailer of your choice – or just hit up any of the streaming services. It’s a Beautiful Day and I Love You is a tremendous set that grows stronger with every listen.
The track list: