Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published April 5th 2021
Another fine Australian artiste
Regular readers will no doubt be aware that I really like singer-songwriters, and that for the past few years I have been getting heavily into the female side of the genre. From Laura Imbruglia to Dyson Stringer Cloher, even to the recent offerings from Taylor Swift, there is just something glorious about these incredible voices giving full vent to their frustrations with life, the world and everything.
And so we come to Don't Ask Yourself Why by Jess Locke (2021).
I had not really heard of Jess Locke, from Melbourne, before, although looking for videos on YouTube for this, I did realise I had heard one or two of her songs from a few years ago. I cannot even remember why I pre-ordered this album when it was first announced, but the teaser single must have got to me and so I simply pre-ordered it and, last week, it arrived. Oh, and it came with a hand-written thank-you note; it is things like that that make we record buyers feel appreciated.
There are two things that stand out from the word go with this album. First, the lyrics are incredible. I am getting used to great lyrics from female singer-songwriters, but Jess might be pushing herself towards the top of the pile with this collection. Second is the way Jess Locke is not afraid to put her voice front and centre. She is not drowned in layers of computerised vocal assistance. I am not naοve enough to think there has been nothing done here it happens in live concerts nowadays, for goodness sake! but it has the feel of something pure and raw. That really adds to it.
So, let's look at the album, track by track.
'Tell Me I'm Okay' And, right off the bat, the lyrics are stunning. Coupled with music that builds and builds, then drops back and builds again, this is an amazingly strong opening track.
'Don't Ask Yourself Why' The music changes here, more orchestrated and lush, while still maintaining a sense of melancholia in the well-written lyrics. Her voice is plaintive and matches the lyrics so well.
'Destroy Everything'Despite some of the rather nihilistic lyrics, this is sung so beautifully, like an angelic choir from the wrong side of the tracks. Weird dichotomy, but it works nicely.
'Fool' And we hit the rock vibe this time. The change of music works well in the context of the album, stopping it from sounding the same. Important, and it shows decent variation in her performance as well. Good track.
'Blowfish' Slowing right down, this song did not quite resonate with me.
'Dead And Gone' This started off like a sort of George Harrison pastiche, but then that build up about halfway through lifted it out of that realm and into something quite stunning and ethereal, with guitars colliding with other instrumentation. The ending made this track for me.
'Winner' An acoustic guitar ballad with those choral vocals again, this is a song that struck something in me, but not until my second listen through of the album. It's a grower.
'Little Bit Evil' This is a highlight of the album. The way it is sung almost with childlike glee juxtaposed against the lyrics is so odd and yet it works. This is a strong track, one I keep going back to.
'Living For The Living' This is not a bad song, but after the track, it follows, it does feel a little like a let down. I played the album on a random setting, and when this track came up, it definitely stands better. The instrumentation works well in this as well.
'Halo' Lyrically, this is my favourite track on the album. The addition of the male voice (and I could not find out who he is) adds to it well, and it is another album highlight.
'Late Bloomer' Another slower piece, lifted by the lyrics (again). The song itself sits there as nothing really out of the ordinary, but once you pay attention to the words, it is really strong.
'All Things Will Change' This sounds like just voice and acoustic guitar, and it works for that. A sad way to end the album, for sure, and so the closing lines from this collection are:
"All things will change, all things will change And no one will remember your name"
So, yes, the mood of the overall album is a touch depressing, if I'm being honest. But the songwriting is superb, real poetry set to music. And I've been all about poetry lately.
I have mentioned before that I am a writer, and so words mean a lot to me their use, their meaning, all of that. Therefore, when I find an album that uses words so well, I just have to keep on listening. (It also depresses me how good these youngsters are when my publication credits feel so few and far between.) This is not a bombastic rock album this is an introspective singer-songwriter album. The plethora of stunning females filling this category particularly from Australia is a joy to this old man's ears. Harkening back decades in form, and with lyrics just as deep and meaningful (and I do not mean that in a disparaging way), I am loving these past few years. And Don't Ask Yourself Why is another really good example.