If this is the future of American music, maybe this country actually
has something to look forward to. As we are still digesting our
lists of the best albums of 2006, Jesse Sykes And The Sweet
Hereafter make a bold case for album of the year - not even
3 months into 2007 - with their latest release on Barsuk Records,
Like, Love, Lust And The Open Halls Of The Soul. They have
that priceless ability to cross the boundaries of country, rock,
blues, and folk - both modern and antique. Listening to this record,
one can imagine Hank Williams crying in his beer, Neil
Young relaxing at the piano with his harmonica, and a super
cast groupies consisting of John Lennon, Bjork,
and Jack White. There is quite a 60's feel to this album,
especially Sykes' vocals and vocal harmonies, conjuring up the
ghosts of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The
Who's earlier works. Jesse Sykes has been blowing up
Seattle's alt-rock scene for years, and soon a lot more folks
are going to be aware of their music around the globe.
True to traditional American country music, Like, Love, Lust
And The Open Halls Of The Soul explores the darker, depressing
sides of life, but in a catchy, toe-tapping manner. Besides the
creative songwriting, this is largely due to the wonderful guitar
playing of Phil Wandscher (ex-Whiskeytown). The
excellent production of Tucker Martine will make you feel
as if you're sitting in front of Wandscher's amp, soaking in the
warm sounds of reverb and vibrato driving the tubes. The lead
parts consist of very simple, yet absolutely captivating melodies,
keeping the time, checking the rhyme, and providing a wonderful
backdrop to the mood of the songs. The cellos, horns, and violas
on the album add to this as well. "It's better not to give
your soul away, give yourself away, away too soon," suggests
Sykes with her signature spooky voice in "Aftermath."
"Some say there's too much love, we just haven't found ours
It may sound like a depressing album, but to the depressed maybe,
it's a quite uplifting reminder that misery does indeed have company.
The album opens up with "Eisenhower Moon" which has
some beautiful Neil Young -style harmonica. The strongest tracks
are "You Might Walk Away", "How Will We Know?"
and the Houses Of The Holy-ish "LLL". My personal
favorite of the album was "I Like The Sound." The guitar
riff duels between major and minor chords, and is the perfect
description of the entire album, switching moods between pleasant
cheerfulness and rage and despair. "It's Hard Not To Believe"
is the lullaby my mother never sang to me, yet I'll be drifting
off to fantasies and nightmares with the help of this song for
1. Eisenhower Moon
3. You Might Walk Away
4. The Air Is Thin
5. Spectral Beings
6. How Will We Know?
7. Hard Not To Believe
9. Station Grey
10. I Like The Sound
11. Morning, It Comes
12. The Open Halls Of The Soul
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