Darren Jessee “Remover” (Bar/None Records, 2020)

In ‘Remover’ Darren Jessee communicates a deep introspection through his direct lyrics and expansive sound. There is a sequence to the tracks so to fully appreciate Jessee’s musing and sonic scope listen from start to finish without interruption or distraction. Jessee’s musical career has been varied. Many will recall him as the drummer in the 90’s indie band Ben Folds Five, after which came Hotel Lights, Hiss Golden Messenger and work with War on Drugs and Sharon Van Etten. His debut solo ‘The Jane, Room 217’ was a great deal more meditative, a direction he has taken further with ‘Remover’.

Opener ‘Dead Weight’ is an acoustic ballad of piercing heartache. Behind the sparseness of lyric and voice lies a luxuriant string arrangement, respectively cutting and soothing. Listening to the album is an immersion deep into Jessee’s thoughts but some songs resonate sooner than others. First to hit that button was ‘Cape Elizabeth’ where the flowing strings wash all around that rugged Maine coastline while evoking the slight apprehension of a new relationship. Already the contributions from long standing friend and producer Alan Weatherhead and strings maestro Trey Pollard are evident.

The strings around ‘Never Gonna Get It’ build up an atmosphere that absorb the forthright lyric, “This is goodbye/ It scared me/ What I need/ I’m never gonna get it”. There is a tension that also builds and never quite dissipates. Likewise, ‘Letdown’ is a first rate folk/pop song enveloped in yet more lush orchestral layers. And whether stripped back or orchestral Jesses’s voice has a mystical, ethereal effect.

While not abandoning the strings Jessee digs even deeper into his thoughts with ‘Never Next Time’ and ‘Getting Back To It Now’. What clearly runs throughout the record is Jessee’s meticulous attention to detail. Behind the expansive layers of ‘Along the Outskirts’ notice how effectively he blends a simple hi-hat beat. Same instrument but a long way from the Ben Folds Five.

When asked what he would like listeners to take from the album Jessee replied, “I hope it helps misfits and sad people everywhere feel less alone”. By laying bare his innermost thoughts he does create a real sense of companionship so Darren Jessee, mission accomplished.

An album of deep introspection
8/10

Author: Lyndon Bolton

Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between

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