JESSE SYKES & THE SWEET HEREAFTER : LIKE, LOVE, LUST & THE OPEN HALLS OF THE SOUL
Label : Fargo
Time : 52:49
Release Year : 2007
Review (AllMusic) : On their third offering, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter widen their musical palette ever so slightly. The first noticeable difference is in the grain of Sykes' voice. She is far more world-worn this time out. She's raspier, digging into the meat of her lyrics more and stubbornly holding on to her syllables to open her lyrics enough to let her intent and emotion drip from them like raw, bittersweet honey. The Sweet Hereafter, led by Phil Wandscher, is tighter, louder, and - while still slow and purposeful - more forceful. Check Wandscher's smoking guitar roar on "LLL," a song wrenched from sexual memory and emotional desolation: "Like love, lust/Sometimes you have to kill/The one you trust" (if the French writer Georges Bataille had been a woman born in the late 20th century perhaps). The band has been augmented by some curious guests as well, enlisted by producer and engineer Tucker Martine: jazz trumpeter Dave Carter leads the horn section, and vanguard violinist Eyvind Kang and Wayne Horvitz also appear. The bigger arrangements and lusher sound separate this set from its predecessors. Yes, that is a good thing. "You Might Walk Away" is a straight-up rock tune, tempered only by the hushed tension on Sykes' voice. The insistently hyper Farfisa sounds like an outtake form Forever Changes. Elsewhere, "I Like the Sound" is a rocking take on six-o psychedelic pop and Sykes' delivery feels almost like Grace Slick's. That's not to say this is a derivative record. Far from it. If anything, the Sweet Hereafter are stretching themselves, incorporating different textures, sonics, and even song structures to build bridges for that understated, intensely expressive voice to articulate a poetic view that's decidedly subterranean and perhaps even sublingual. Country and folk music hasn't been abandoned - it's still ever present in tracks like "The Air Is Thin," the haunted "Spectral Beings," "Morning, It Comes," and "The Open Halls of the Soul." If anything, this is the most satisfying offering from Sykes and her band yet.