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We Made This Ourselves

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Album Review

The debut album by expatriate Londoner Essie Jain (now living in New York) has the intimacy and rustic feel of a certain strain of singer/songwriters from the late '60s and early '70s: Linda Perhacs, Vashti Bunyan, Shelagh McDonald, and even a bit of Nick Drake are all accurate touchstones for alt-folk hipsters. The album is not quite entirely solo, but other instruments are added to Jain's vocals, acoustic guitar and piano so sparingly that it might as well be. This puts all of the focus on Jain, which is both a good and bad thing. Jain is, in the '70s tradition, a confessional singer/songwriter, and at times, We Made This Ourselves has a slightly awkward, voyeuristic quality akin to being forced to hear a stranger's half of a cell phone conversation on the bus. For example, "Talking" includes the line "Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up talking/You gotta be kidding me." Lyrical awkwardness aside, Jain's cool, dark-toned voice — even at the high end of her range, she has a husky, purring edge — is a skilled and interesting instrument, and despite the simple, monochromatic arrangements, there's enough melodic variety to We Made This Ourselves to keep it from sounding too samey. Fans of the new wave of alt-folk singer/songwriters will find a lot to like here.

We Made This Ourselves, Essie Jain
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