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Make My Head Sing…

Jessica Lea Mayfield

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Album Review

After cutting two albums with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jessica Lea Mayfield decided to go it alone for Make My Head Sing..., her ATO debut. While her previous offerings have been somewhat confessional singer/songwriter affairs that juxtaposed rootsy Americana and indie pop, this date moves in almost an entirely different direction. Co-produced with her husband, bassist Jesse Newport, the pair played everything except drums — not that there's much else. The record's first sound is a feedback-drenched, enormously distorted electric guitar, playing at a plodding pace. It's a shock if you've heard either of her previous records. Her world-weary alto — trained while singing in her family's bluegrass band — drifts through many of these riff-laden tunes with an ethereality and confessional playfulness that contrasts sharply with music informed by everyone from Nirvana and early Foo Fighters to Mudhoney, Silverchair ("Oblivious," "I Wanna Love You," "Unknown Big Secret," "Anything You Want"), and even the latter-day Cure ("Do I Have the Time"). Despite the in-your-face attack in some of these cuts, the gorgeous melodies wind their way through the bombast. Elsewhere, "Standing in the Sun" would have been right at home on Tell Me — albeit with another arrangement. "No Fun" has a minimal, repetitive verse-and-chorus structure, a three-note bassline, and a snare that frame the vocal and vamp, until a careening guitar solo rips the middle wide open yet keeps the melody intact. Closer "Seein* Starz" is a sad love song with a pronounced pop hook accentuating the melancholy. The gentleness in her vocal floats atop the reverbed six-string riff and shimmering melody, creating a layered frame for her heartworn lyric. Make My Head Sing... is confident. One small complaint is that the rockers are so saturated in '90s inspirational sources that those sounds can sometimes overshadow the subtler lyrical aspects in Mayfield's clever songwriting and singing (though her voice is at the front of every track here). It's not a perfect record, but noteworthy for its musical risk-taking and assertive attitude.

Customer Reviews

Highlight of 2014

An absolutely sensational album; one that has been played many times in our house. It opens with Oblivious, an absolutely belter of a rock song, with perhaps my favourite first line for a long time (“I Could Kill Her With the Power in my Mind, but I’m a Good Hu Ma Ni Ta Ri An”) and then followed up with I Wanna Love You, the best stalker song since Sarah MacLachlan’s Possession, and it’s all lovingly infused with such knowingly Nirvana inspired sounds that it’s automatically both of the period and refreshingly, er, fresh. Nothing else has sounded like this for absolutely years. The album is devoid of any missteps; the only minor criticism is that the two longer tracks (Pure Stuff, and Unknown Big Secret, both over five minutes) lacks the urgency and alertness of the rest of the record. But they’re still super.

After the cracking opening, and the super 80’s sounding Do I Have Time (a major highlight) in the middle, the LP rounds off with three quieter but beautifully balanced songs, concluding with Seein Starz which is totally gorgeous and very romantic. The guitars, her voice (rich and characterful, a bit like a softer gentler Fiona Apple), and the deceptively efficient and considered percussion coupled with excellent production and modest reverb / echo (gives a lovely feeling a warm expansive space) results in what was one of the most criminally under-rated albums of 2014. This also sounds amazing on both a) quality headphones and b) vinyl.

Biography

Born: 27 August 1989 in Kent, OH

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

A folk-influenced songwriter from Kent, Ohio, Jessica Lea Mayfield began performing with her family's bluegrass band, One Way Rider, at the age of eight. She started writing her own music three years later, often accompanying her older brother at open-mike performances in the Ohio area, before landing a weekly solo gig at a local bar. At 15 years old, Mayfield took to her brother's bedroom to record a batch of her own acoustic songs, which ran the gamut from raw, aggressive folk...
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Make My Head Sing…, Jessica Lea Mayfield
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