Cassandra Jenkins - An Overview on Phenomenal Nature Music Album Reviews

Cassandra Jenkins - An Overview on Phenomenal Nature Music Album Reviews
Filled with people, stories, and dialogue, the New York songwriter’s second album flows like an emotional breakthrough, tying together disparate observations into a serene and unified vision.

Three songs into An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, we hear a sampled monologue: “So, these are real things that happen,” it begins. The speaker is a security guard at Manhattan’s now-closed Met Breuer museum, and the person on the receiving end, recording the voice memo and presenting it to us, is songwriter Cassandra Jenkins. A New York native as interested in telling stories as she is in collecting them, Jenkins seems to kick into action when people preface their thoughts this way—when she senses someone about to reveal something honest and intimate and useful.
Phenomenal Nature, Jenkins’ second album, is filled with direct quotes, stories, and dialogue. Often, her characters have names: There’s David, Warren, Grey, Darryl, Lola, Peri, Hailey Gates. Some of them, like Gates, are the focus of entire songs, while others, like the museum security guard, pass through in momentary scenes. The overall effect is less diary than documentary, as we follow a single subject through the world, supplemented with key insight from experts.

Working with producer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman, Jenkins keeps the album focused and breezy. In just over half an hour, it features one perfect song (the dazzling “Hard Drive”), five excellent ones, and an instrumental coda. Surrounding her voice with saxophone and fretless bass, drum loops and field recordings, acoustic instruments and new age synth, Jenkins’ accompanists mirror the conversational tone of her writing, ensuring that the revelations aren’t limited to the lyric sheet. The whole thing flows like an emotional breakthrough, tying together disparate observations into a serene and unified vision.

With the exception of “Michaelangelo,” a thematic overture that summons the understated wisdom of Aimee Mann, Jenkins composed the entire album in Kaufman’s studio over the span of a week. Plainspoken and intuitive, her writing zooms into a specific period in her life. In summer 2019, she was prepared to join David Berman on his comeback tour as Purple Mountains when, just before opening night, she received news that he had died by suicide. Throughout these songs, she guides us through the immediate aftermath—grief, helplessness, canceled flights—along with a more imagistic fog of loneliness and confusion.

While Jenkins’ early work offered a cozy spin on glammy Americana, here she and Kaufman carve a new atmosphere that feels particularly suited to this material. “Empty space is my escape,” she sings in “Crosshairs,” and her collaborators take these words as a kind of prescription, letting their melodies and rhythm materialize around her like constellations. Often, the cadence of her storytelling informs the sound of the band: Her search for enlightenment amid the depressive limbo of “New Bikini” casts them as a kind of ambient lounge act, while the solitary ghost story of “Ambiguous Norway” emits a heavenly campfire glow, like the ballads from Bon Iver rendered as sci-fi.

Jenkins’ goal as a writer is to remain present, receptive to the poetry of daily life. But anyone who has dabbled in meditation knows the other side of that pursuit: the anger of feeling stuck in your own head, the frustration at your own frustration, the fear that maybe you’ve veered too far off course to ever get centered again. Despite the lapping calm of “New Bikini,” with its luxurious saxophone accompaniment from Stuart Bogie, there is a storm brewing below the surface. In each chorus, Jenkins recalls a friend’s advice—“Baby, go get in the ocean/The water, it cures everything”—and reconsiders it with optimism, skepticism, or sarcasm. Over the course of the song, you can hear her outlook dissolve from peaceful, cosmic nothingness into the more void-like, everyday kind.

Despite the trauma in her subject matter, Jenkins’ writing summons a graceful, almost aspirational quality of lightness. She draws on the language of self-help—the mind-body connection, chakras, carving yourself from marble—but she also leaves room for pain to exist unresolved, unprocessed. She fills her music with community and friends, but she also understands that no one has it all figured out—least of all the people who claim to. This is why a song like “Crosshairs,” with its heartsick plea to “fall apart in the arms of someone entirely strange to me,” does not come across like rock bottom desperation: From Jenkins, this is a prayer, her belief that shared vulnerability can lead to its own kind of strength.

The album’s gravitational center, and her peak as a songwriter, is “Hard Drive.” Over a steady, slow-building arrangement, Jenkins recites each verse in her speaking voice, undistracted, letting us into four distinct scenes: an art exhibit, a bookshop, a driving lesson, and a friend’s birthday party. Here, Jenkins meets a psychic who offers a few words of hope and guides her through a breathing exercise. Somewhere along the way in Jenkins’ retelling, a transformation takes place. Singing in the second person, she becomes the psychic. The drums cycle uphill and the band crescendos toward a psychedelic sunrise of pedal steel and ringing, open, major chords: “We’re gonna put your heart back together,” she promises. “Are you ready?” Her voice glimmers with the confidence of someone who already knows the answer.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Cassandra Jenkins - An Overview on Phenomenal Nature Music Album Reviews Cassandra Jenkins - An Overview on Phenomenal Nature Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 26, 2021 Rating: 5


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