Native State by Jess Williamson.

Dec 12, 2014

Some­times it takes a long time to real­ise that that which you’ve been spend­ing a lot of time with means more than you take it for.

For ten months of 2014, the sparse drawn out gui­tar that in­tro­duces these seven songs has sig­nalled the start of so many jour­neys I’ve made it’s as if the im­agery and char­ac­ters of the songs that fol­low have seeped out of the head­phones into the world to stay there shad­ow­ing the year’s memor­ies whenever they come to mind.

Other re­cords have joined it, many so bright they in­stantly spark a de­sire to talk about them with friends. But that gui­tar has kept com­ing back, at first out of curi­os­ity, then com­fort, and fi­nally a real­isa­tion that play­ing through, time after time, is a mo­ment of storytelling that ranks as the best thing I’ve heard all year.

The first six songs are so in­ter­woven it seems non­sensical to try reach­ing for high­lights. Each drifts in and out at its own will, circ­ling over a few words for a while, com­ing in with a sur­prise dy­namic shift, a chorus. I should know all the parts by now but I’m still sur­prised at the un­con­ven­tional tim­ing with every listen. It feels more like a film in six acts with many mem­or­able scenes in each than six songs you could sep­ar­ate.

Then “Sev­enth Song” ar­rives and it’s a sud­den blast of catchy, short, im­me­di­ately re­lat­able words and melody. You could put it on a com­pil­a­tion with oth­ers but as those first chords strum in, my mind goes “oh, that was quick” and real­ises it’s there again, at the end, re­mind­ing me just how many times I’ve re­peated the re­cord. It’s an­other sig­nal and after a day or two it’s back to that open­ing gui­tar line, in time for an­other jour­ney.

When I first saw the lyr­ics prin­ted out on the back of the re­cord sleeve I was sur­prised at how few of them there were when read­ing through without back­ing. Within those words, and the seven songs they live in, are so many vivid pic­tures that they seems to be painted in para­graphs not a scat­ter­ing of sen­tences.

Just as the re­cord man­ages to limit the amount of in­stru­ment­a­tion to sit be­side the vo­cals, never over­tak­ing and some­times fall­ing away com­pletely, the words point out things to look at as if they’re just a tour guide through a vast scene. For such a visual al­bum there’s little de­scrip­tion.

“Just look at those eyes of hers…” and it’s like you’re shuff­ling in closer to the storyteller, not want­ing to miss a word and sud­denly find your­self sur­roun­ded by the scene that’s be­ing de­scribed, grasp­ing wildly at the scenery to grab as much as you can.

“All of us think­ing what we can’t pho­to­graph we can sing” she says. That scenery takes you between mo­ments cap­tured through a cam­era, phone con­ver­sa­tions, a car win­dow, moun­tains, rivers, walks, de­lu­sions and a “wild North­w­est storm that feels put on for me and my girl” but once it’s over the set be­gins to grow way past its al­loc­ated run­ning time, hint­ing at mo­ments that sit slightly out­side of the view of the re­vealed nar­rat­ive.

“I got a good idea, I just can’t find my pen.” she sings on the clos­ing track. It’s a little re­cord of big things, full of short glimpses into a world that’s got so much go­ing on in it can be drift­ing past you for ten months be­fore you start no­ti­cing it.

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