Posts Tagged ‘Jillette Johnson’

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:

Typically, ‘round here, this time of year becomes a bacchanal of music and memories I’ve come to dub “Remember December.” There’s rhyme, reason, Christmas music and good cheer, plus best-of lists, recaps, frankincense and myrrh, not to mention a countdown of my most popular posts of the past 12 months. I jumpstarted the best-of fun in late November, of course, so there’ll be a little less of that – and no Concerts of the Year countdown – but there are plenty of other knick-knacks to stuff in the stocking. That fun begins next week. Today, however, it’s my stream-of-conscious musings about matters large and small, while tomorrow I plan to share my thoughts on the Neil Young Archives website and Neil’s mammoth Archives II set.

Anyway, this morning – as most Saturdays – I found myself in a line of cars waiting for curbside pickup at a grocery store while soaking my soul in the music of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. No, not his Letter to You album, though it could well have been, but an archival delight I downloaded from his Live Downloads store last year: Their 1988 concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden. I began listening to it again a few weeks back – and, wow. Just wow. It’s an excellent show that features many songs from the Tunnel of Love LP, though only a handful of pre-River classics. There’s no “Badlands,” no “Promised Land,” no “Thunder Road.” “Backstreets” is present. “Born to Run” is, too, though in a slowed-down acoustic arrangement. There’s also this:

Depending upon one’s age and musical inclinations, you may or may not enjoy it. Me? I can’t get enough. Which leads to this: When the history of these times are written, what will be said? That I momentarily unfollowed someone on Twitter because she described Springsteen’s songs as “either boring or bellowing” and followed that with “I don’t care for his music”? Of course not. But, no doubt, scholars will note an uptick in such petty reactions (as mine was) to what, pre-pandemic, were minor annoyances generally ignored. Daily stresses cause that.

Joss Stone’s new single, “Walk With Me,” is a good way to relieve that tension. It’s quickly become one of my favorite songs of the year.

Of course, one reason for the overreaction to little things is that the big things, by and large, are beyond our control – the pandemic and politics. On the latter front, despite his Supreme Court loss, the tinpot despot’s nefarious plot to upend the U.S. election isn’t over yet. Now he’ll be pushing a slew of congressional prostitutes to screw the U.S. Constitution on January 6th, when Congress is scheduled to accept the Electoral College results. Their fealty to democracy is less than their fealty to cash – or, in this case, most likely the promise of cash from his new Save America PAC. (FYI: As the contractors who helped build his Atlantic City casinos discovered, he rarely pays out.)

Breath deep. Exhale. That’s what I tell myself, at any rate. And lose yourself in such cool performances as this one from Jillette Johnson. It builds and builds, but never explodes – a Mazzy Star-like rendition, if that makes sense. It’s hypnotic.

I planned to trip back to September 18, 1984, this morning and bore into my first two published reviews – in the Ogontz Campus News, the weekly newspaper for what’s now known as Penn State Abington. But my archives are not as organized as, say, Neil Young’s. From the time I hit on the idea – Friday – to Saturday afternoon, when I finally located said newspaper, something happened: I discovered two new-to-me artists whose music made me feel young again.

So, here’s today’s Top 5: New Music, Vol. XLI.

On Friday night, while browsing the Paste Magazine sessions (always a rewarding endeavor), I stumbled across singer-songwriter Jillette Johnson’s four-song set, which was live-streamed earlier in the day. 

Her latest album is All I Ever See in You Is Me (2017) and, based on the above performance, I’ll be checking it out this week. 

Then, Saturday morning, a fan post on the Nanci Griffith Facebook Fan Page recapped a Nanci tribute in Austin that was organized and hosted by Austin-based singer-songwriter Nichole Wagner. That led me to look Nichole up on YouTube. Here’s her boss rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s classic “Tougher Than the Rest,” a track that has been covered by a coterie of cool artists in the past, including Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin.

That led me to check out her own songs – and, as I’m apt to say, wow. Just wow. I’m looking forward to her forthcoming album, which is slated for release on July 13th.

Another group that I came across on Paste’s YouTube channel, albeit earlier in the week: Haerts. They’re originally from Munich, but moved to Brooklyn some time ago.  Very cool retro vibe and harmonies. As Diane just remarked, “they’re fabulous.”

Another band with a cool retro vibe: the UK-based Treetop Flyers, who borrowed their name from a Stephen Stills song. Here’s the lead single from their forthcoming self-titled set, “Needle.”

I’ve mentioned Mikaela Davis’ Delivery, due out July 13th, before. Here’s the funky “Get Gone” as performed live at the Layman Drug Company in Nashville.

I’ll close out with what a classic track for the bonus – Willie Nelson’s “Living in the Promiseland,” which I’ve returned to quite often in recent months. The David Lynn Jones-penned song was a No. 1 hit for Willie that same year, and the cornerstone of Willie’s 1986 Promiseland LP, which I believe was the first album of his I purchased.