Thursday, April 6, 2017

Pitstop: Cassandra Jenkins

My introduction to New York singer/songwriter Cassandra Jenkins essentially happened due to her constant association with other bands/acts I love: Landlady, Sam Evian/Celestial Shore, Cantina, Will Stratton all have had nothing but good things to say about her and played numerous shows with her that after seeing her name for the umpteenth time I decided to finally check her out. That was several years ago and with her debut full length album Play Till You Win out this Friday, it seemed like the right time (albeit a little late on my part) to share her music with the uninitiated.

Cassandra Jenkins makes the kind of music that seems simple enough to have an easy label for and yet, manages to elude definition. Her lyrics are winningly intimate, effortlessly clever and poetic and especially on the several singles she's let loose from her upcoming album are arranged with an immersive vastness. Jenkins takes the simplicity of folk and country music and pairs them with the ornate stature of chamber pop; the subdued, understated grace of bedroom crafted dream pop. It's a style wholly her own made through a process almost like paint mixing.

Where her EP lay firmly in country territory with its lap steel, on tracks like Play Till You Win's opening number "Candy Crane", Jenkins amasses a larger assortment of textures and sounds. From pedal steel to omnichord, the arrangements belie the fact that there's really a hell of a lot going on in it. Strings, organ, electric and acoustic guitar, Jenkins somehow wrangles the multitude of instruments into a hushed but fluid flow.

Then you have a song like her most recent single "Hotel Lullaby" which is a lovely aquatic reverie. The arrangements are still pristine and underplayed and yet, in its dreamy lilt, Jenkins lets each individual instrument as well as her vocals and their harmonic echo emerge from the gently lapping waves of sound and bubble into focus. Soothing and beaming with effervescent calm, it's a masterclass in ease. In fact all of her songs give off a sense of effortlessness. Flowing and free, they can seemingly go on forever even as they all rarely clock in longer at than 4 minutes. It's a sort of cohesive forward momentum that bodes incredibly well for Jenkins' full length album effort.

Cassandra Jenkins' debut full length Play Till You Win is out April 7th.

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