Monday, April 16, 2012

Jessie Baylin - Little Spark (2012)

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My introduction to Nashville-based songstress Jessie Baylin happened oddly enough from her brother John - who I was in a workshop with. He offhandedly mentioned he was going to see her perform at Pianos in NYC and while I couldn't go to the concert, I made a mental note to check her out. Flash forward almost a year and a half later and random bout of memory caused me to check her out again where I learned Baylin had put out her third record Little Spark earlier this year.

From the mere strum of the dreamy harp intro of "Hurry Hurry", you're instantaneous drawn backwards in time to the Brill Building pop stylings of which Jessie Baylin in undoubtedly familiar - all before the first entrance of her pillowy vocals cushioned exquisitely by minimalistic string flourishes. And yet behind the veneer of Little Spark's retro pop vibes, Baylin's lyricism is a step above their naive, cutesy 60's girl group fare - crooning lines like "I'm sippin' on your hidden stash of whiskey, a little drunker than you know I should be" ("Hurry Hurry") as she waits for her lover to return home, or pretty much any verse on "Love is Wasted on Lovers". And yet, Little Spark isn't just Baylin capturing the best of a bygone era and distilling it, there's some modernity like "The Greatest Thing That Never Happened" which is a slice of Sara Bareilles-esque piano pop. There's wind-swept "Yuma", and "Star Cannon" which recalls Sylvie Lewis' own folksy retro pop style (coincidentally also a collaborator of Richard Swift).

For as much credit as Jessie Baylin deserves for her nostalgia-laden reveries, she's also enlisted a stellar group of contributors in the form of string arranger Jimmie Haskell (who's worked for Elvis Presley and Simon Garfunkel), multi-instrumentalist Richard Swift (who's worked for artists Damien Jurado, Laetita Saedler, & The Shins), as well as The Watson Twins on backing vocals whom have all had an important hand in the shaping of the album (Swift was the album's chief arranger).

With Little Spark, Jessie Baylin offers up a mighty decent collection of tracks - actually, it's a bit more than that. Baylin balances heartfelt vulnerability ("The Winds", "Joy Is Suspicious"), with far less visceral, enjoyable tracks and offers an album that far better than your standard pop release - an album with depth that doesn't take itself entirely too seriously.

Get a taste of Jessie Baylin's Little Spark with the video for "Hurry Hurry" directed by Scarlett Johansson:

Little Spark is out now on Baylin's own Blonde Rat Records. You can stream it on Spotify.

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