Monday, March 09, 2009
The gradual rise of Jessica Venebles, from her accidental debut accompanying Belle And Sebastian in 2004, has been a fascinating thing to watch. To a stupendously enthusiastic sold-out Palais Theatre this slip of a thing belted out a phenomenal Lazy Line Painter Jane while surrounded by a gleefully surprised Belle and Sebastian. It was a moment of unadulterated joy and a harbinger no one could have suspected. Her evolution into a solo artist has been slow and very sure, now resulting in the supremely confident We Need To Talk.
With one of the best album titles in recent memory, a visage that can only be described as striking, talent and experience well beyond her years and rigorously high standards of songwriting and style, Jessica Says is a compelling figure. Her time as lead cello in the Melbourne Youth Orchestra and its abandonment to work amongst the upper echelons of the indie-pop world is in equal measure here. We Need To Talk has a timeless quality about it. Despite sounding like it could have been made any time in the last 40 years it never sounds less than current. Her songs, like her voice, have a sureness balanced by a sensitivity reflected in her elegiac lyrics, with their recurring themes of darkness, solitude and oblique references to separating lives. This is an album about growing carefully and evolving bravery jealousy inducing in its youth, beauty and lyrical accuracy. “So who is this child you are leaving with me? / Scared that I might have loved too quickly / But we’ll chew at apple cores and lemon rind / We’ll suck the life out of all we’ll find”.
Venebles clearly knows a thing or two about writing for cello and violin (ably played by her brother Nick), and her arrangements are something many bands could learn from. Keeping the songs personal and stripped back heightens their strengths; the direct lyrics, her breathy ‘in your ear’ voice, the humble piano parts. The gorgeously concise We Don’t Falter spirals inward and inward as Venebles talks of climbing mountains, intoning, “We don’t falter though we fall”. There is a constant suggestion of movement, progression and hope here, which, given the deeply personal nature of the music and nakedness of the delivery, hints at ensuing albums being quite different. I’m sure I’ll not be the only one paying close attention. A phenomenal debut.