An evening with Darren Jessee (Ben Folds Five, Hotel Lights) and Julie Odell, Friday, November 17, at Citizen Vinyl. Doors at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m.
$15 advance / $20 at the door.
Darren Jessee is a familiar presence to alternative music fans thanks to his long tenure as the drummer / backing vocalist in Ben Folds Five. (He also co-wrote that group’s biggest hit “Brick.”) Outside of that outfit, he’s logged time touring with Sharon Van Etten and Hiss Golden Messenger, as well as fronting the indie rock ensemble Hotel Lights.
But perhaps Jessee’s most affecting work has been the three albums he has released over the past five years under his own name. On these recordings, he scales everything back to the purest pop essentials, with strings, acoustic guitar, and a smart application of vintage keyboards serving to put further emphasis on his languid vocals and plainspoken, yet elegiac lyrics. Jessee’s latest full-length Central Bridge produced by Alan Weatherhead (Sparklehorse, Hotel Lights) and released on Bar/None, is his best yet. A hushed understated affair recorded primarily in the artist’s North Carolina home, the album revels in the small details of life—a crumpled pack of cigarettes found in an old jacket, a pile of wet swimwear on the floor, the startling blue of a cloudless sky—that somehow leave a lasting impression on a person or stir up deep seated memories.
Julie Odell wrote roughly half of the songs that make up Autumn Eve several years before becoming a mother and the other half afterwards, which means half of the songs predate these personal transformations and half were written while in the thick of things. As a result, listeners are introduced to several versions of Odell, with the album functioning as a rich tapestry of her emotional growth. This also means that some songs have double meanings for Odell, who now views her pre-mother self with much more compassion.
Odell describes pursuing music as a “huge, sparkly dream,” and Autumn Eve certainly sounds like one, too. Whether it’s downpouring rain from Ireland (“St. Fin Barre”) or fireworks over the MIssissippi River (“People Cheering”), there are countless sonic details that make the album feel like a treasure trove and a place more grand and beautiful than reality. Listening to this record feels like you’re sitting in Odell’s family van, absorbing delightful new landscapes through the window every few minutes, and you’ll never want the gorgeous fever dream to end.