Buena Vista is available at:
The album Tourist is available from July 8th, 2014.
Everywhere I Go
Hole In My Heart
PHIL DEMETRO AT LACQUER CHANNEL
CHRISTOPHER RYAN GIETL
GUITARS AND BASS (TRKS 1, 4, 7, 9, 11)
BASS AND KEYS (TRKS 2, 8, 10, 12)
BASS (TRK 5)
GREAT BIG SEA:
VOCALS, GUITAR PERCUSSION (TRK 6)
BRENDAN CANNING/BERNARD MEIZZA:
BASS AND ADDITIONAL KEYS (TRK 10)
DRUM ENGINEER (TRK 9)
Indie, Alt.-Pop, Psychedelia, Surf, Latin, Rock, Folk, Pop.
After contributing to other artists’ work- and having had her music featured in advertisements- Jeen goes solo. Her album Tourist is already garnering hugely excited whispers- its opening cut’s urgent, hypnotic, stunning (and snaking hips) demonstrate just why. Buena Vista‘s importunate charm and provocative swagger is one of the catchiest and most memorable I have heard all year.
HAVING recently compiled a few lengthy reviews…
for various different artists, it is good to write something….cosier (well, sort of). Today, I get to investigate an artist making her first solo movements- and one possessed of a charming and inspiring back story. Being someone in the early stages of my own music career, I find myself searching around new music: trying to find artists that are starting out and how they are doing things- Jeen O’Brien is a busy and well-respected artist; her current solo record was created in the charming comfort of her attic. It is pleasing to hear great musicians come through that are afforded the opportunity to record in the studio: the technology, personnel and pleasant creative environment brings vivid life to their music- so long as a song/album is not over-produced, the professionalism and gleam of the studio adds weight and huge atmosphere to a record. Every once in a while you come across an act that is inspired by the surroundings of home: one of my recent review subjects- Second Hand Poet- recorded his latest album from his bedroom. Before I go into more depth, I shall introduce Jeen to you:
“Jeen has written with many recording artists such as Great Big Sea, Serena Ryder, Res, Hawksley Workman, Brendan Canning and Martin “Doc” McKinney to name a few. She has worked with such companies as Pirate Radio and Television, RMW Music, TA2, Grayson Matthews and Nelvana (Corus Entertainment) writing, singing and producing a number of her songs for licence and use in commercials (Panasonic, Shaw, CIBC, Kraft, BlackBerry, KIA, Rogers, MasterCard, etc.) as well as various television programs (Republic of Doyle, Instant Star, Ruby Gloom, Degrassi). She is currently a member of the newly released Cookie Duster and is awaiting the release of her next solo record.”
There is quite a busy next few weeks in store for Jeen: she has had quite an illustrious and diverse past, and is showing what she can do on her own terms. In spite of collaborating with other musicians (on Tourist) it is the singular voice and sensation from our heroine that comes through: that passion and beauty that has defined her previous work is augmented and emphasised here. Before I delve into the music itself, another interesting issue comes to mind: international crossover potential. Having reviewed a fair few North American acts (including several Canadian artists), I am always curious how long it will take until their name travels across the Atlantic: how many weeks or months will it take for journalists, fans and music sites over here to latch onto the music? I guess if you have a publicist and record label sharing your sounds, it will take less time than usual- for those that are making their own sounds in their own homes, the task seems daunting. Jeen has spiked a few critical minds here- her music and legacy has been recognised and acknowledged- and reviewers have caught onto her particular brand of song. With the release of her new solo album, there should be a transformation of sorts: we shall see publications and websites honing in on the music; stating its strengths and layers- hopefully this will lead to tour dates across here. I shall touch more on these point in the conclusion: for now, O’Brien is in the midst of unleashing Tourist: it is an L.P. that will see her stock rise- and effusive outpourings come in.
The latest sounds from Jeen have comparisons with her past collaborations and works. There is that same passion and ambition that ran through her early sounds, yet something new and vibrant is making its presence known. A confidence and sense of purpose shouts through Buena Vista. Our heroine’s unique and compelling voice seems more assured and relaxed: although the song is fast-paced and energised, Jeen seems filled with alacrity and readiness- the conviction and sense of fun is infectious and unavoidable. Having a slight knowledge of our heroine’s past work, I can see there has been a leap forward: the topics and subject matter is fresh and sparkling; the lyrics walk new ground and take in new scenery- fans of her older moves will find a lot of familiarity, yet there is plenty of sparkling momentum and inspiration here. Tourist is likely to contain its fair share of lust, glory and vibrant sonic output: whilst being recorded in the confines of our heroine’s attic, you would swear the sounds emanated from the bar rooms: surrounded by a jubilant and impassioned audience, there is a great live feel to proceedings- not only giving the music that additional wonder and strength, but giving the lyrics and messages more authority and relevance. The uncovering and investigation of Tourist shows just how much Jeen has grown and developed: on the strength of the latest offering, the music will not only excite and thrill loyal supporter, but draw in a raft of new fans from all around the globe. Tourist has so much richness and range on display that it seems almost an embarrassment of riches and spoils. Multiple genres are played and perfected; various curious stories and songbooks are presented- Jeen has clearly picked up plenty of inspiration from her personal life and travels; all beautifully reflected in her latest album.
It is hard to pinpoint any like-minded acts out there. Jeen has plenty of energy and electricity in her music. Like her country-mates The Dirty Nil; there is some Punk and Rock rush to whip up emotion and restless feet: whilst not quite at the same pace of the trio, songs like Buena Vista manage to summon the same sort of evocative lust and bombast- you cannot listen to the song without moving your body and getting into the music. It is music that not only has beauty and heart but plenty of smash and grab- combining the female Punk groups of old with modern-day Indie and Rock. There is a huge amount of beauty, sexiness and raw high-heeled stomp in Jeen’s voice. Embers of everyone from The Bangles and Lana Del Rey- when the vocals are smoother and more seductive- come through; Punk legend Suzi Quatro and modern idols such as Alison Mosshart are there. To be perfectly honest, there are very few other musicians that come to mind when listening to Jeen’s music. You may well think you hear aspects of others, but that is the beauty of the music: there is a pleasing familiarity as well as a hell of a lot of original intent. The vocals and production are modern and contemporary: with acts such as Haim, Savages, Warpaint and Evarose making big impressions, Jeen can rank alongside them. Evrose are defined as one of the finest Punk acts of the moment; Haim (as well as The Staves) provide anthemic beauty and spellbinding tableaus; Warpaint are cool and slinky- kick-ass and sexy, seductive and empowered. Jeen very much is her own artist, yet you can draw comparisons- in terms of styles and emotions- with the aforementioned: gender barriers do not apply either; it would be remiss to solely rank Jeen alongside other female acts. For my money, there are few musicians that provide music so fascinating and fresh: that which not only gets the mind racing, but seems like a breath of fresh air. Such is the majestic catchiness and hypnotic sway of the music that it will appeal to fans of all genres of music: there is no overt heaviness, no ineffectual lightness- a perfect balance is struck that means everything from Pop to Punk; through to Indie is mixed into an incredible melting pot. The breadth and range of her talent will fascinate a large catchment area. Jeen is just as adept at tender ballads and introverted numbers as she is hook-laden monsters: Tourist covers so much emotional ground- and provides so many different sounds- that it will appeal to everyone: there is a ubiquitous and universality to Jeen’s music that no one will come away from the listening experience empty-handed.
Tourist contains a few numbers with the same spirit and force of Buena Vista: few manage to match the song’s initial energy and tantilisation. After a grumbling and low-down guitar (with bass into the mix) rumble, our heroine approaches her mic. One can instantly detect a sense of spell-casting and deliriousness. The vocal is delineated and projected at a break-neck pace- lacking complete decipherability in the early stages- Jeen seems almost overcome and entranced in the first verse- “I got you and you got me” are the first sentiments to be expressed. Our heroine’s voice has a romantic and touching core, yet there seems to be a sense of dissafectedness and distance. It is not instantly clear whether a romantic relationship- or a friendship- is being investigated and represented: Jeen projects a sense of cool detachment in the opening gambit. You could imagine our heroine hanging outside of a neon-lit and character-filled bar; sunglasses on and the sun on her face, you get a real air of rebelliousness and cool-as-hell authority in the track: similar to singers such as Alison Mosshart, Jeen comes across as alpha female and empowered; instilled with an undertone of sensitivity and passion- she is not to messed with but wants not to offend. Our heroine’s voice is backed by a compelling and driving composition: guitars are restrained but near-the-knuckle; the percussion mixes Surf/Pysch.-Rock experimentation and pace- perfectly supporting Jeen’s urgent vocal. Whereas most artists care little for structure and development- within a song and story-line- our heroine ensures that the mood changes and the song mutates. From the earnestness of the opening lyrics, Jeen tells her subject(s) to “get over it“: the first few seconds see a slower and more teasing vocal; it kicks up a gear upon this line- before changing pace once again. Giving the song a constant sense of purpose and flow: Jean backs herself up on vocals to deliver an addictive round of “yeah, yeah, yeah“‘s- in terms of genres we have seen everything from Psychedelia to Punk through to U.S. Pop-Rock. As Jeen advises to “head on to the morning comes“, you get a clear sense that something big is coming: in terms of visual projection, she takes her shades off and is heading towards the bar- her fist punching and fingers clicking, she is about to make her presence known. The chorus spares little time in getting into your head: Hispanic and Latin rhythm (and snaking hips) slink through in the composition and vocals; Jeen casts herself as a ruby-lipped seductress- leather-clad and smiling, the chorus is an hypnotic and alluring figure. Recklessness and a sense of danger linger in the air; the chorus’ indelible and catchy-as-crap coda is sung with passion and force: mixing bellicose with come-hither intention, it is an incredible weapon- one that stirs up a wealth of images and possibilities. When Jeen lets her voice come down slightly and pose the question- “Buena Vista are you having fun, yeah?”- your mind tries to catch up with what has come before- it is a riptide and compulsive rush that grabs you; implores and beckons you in. Matching the pace and structure of the opening moments, Jeen seems to be intoxicated and compelled: fly-by-nights and candlelights are incorporated and passed by; our heroines wants her subject to “take me to the place“- the sense of longing and need in the vocal is hard to shake off. By the time the chorus swings back around- and with thoughts racing- new and strange pictures enter the mind. The song has a sense of ambiguity that allows for some interpretation and imagination- each listener will have their own figures and cast in mind- characters, sensations and sights will vary from person to person. What will resonate hard with everyone is the strength of the vocal and composition. From the consistent and powerful percussive drive to the grumbles, rumbles and slither of the guitar, it is designed to make sure you do not forget the song- long after you have finished listening. After a brief punctuation of guitar and percussion, Jeen’s vocals entwine and mingle with one another: echoed and shadowy; distorted and haunting, the question of fun is posed once more- moaning sighs underpin a swirling mantra that is beautifully dark as well as highly evocative. Before you can fall onto the floor- intoxicated and gut-punched- the chorus is whipped back in: our heroine is determined not to let the pace drop for an iota- ensuring that the listener is hooked until the final second.
I hope that my words have done justice to Buena Vista: rarely do I encounter a song that hits me so hard, so fast. There is practically nothing that can be considered a criticism or suggestion. Some of the words are not overly-clear, so maybe one or two of the lyrics get missed- I hope that I have quoted everything correctly here. I suppose that is the whole point: the nature of the vocal and strength of the emotion means that some segments will get lost- the emphasise seems to be on force, passion and pace. The words themselves are colourful and heady: it is impossible not to interpret the song and imagine just what is going down. So many modern tracks deal with love and personal elements- there is little opportunity to cast your own version of events as everything is clear-cut and direct. With some oblique and double-meaning coming through, it means each listen creates new wonder: some things you missed before come to light; other parts change and mutate. One of the great strengths of the track is the sense of immediacy and nuance: it brilliantly strikes upon the first listen; each new spin uncovers a new layer and does something different. Before I attempt to sum-up and conclude, I will pass around some gold stars and kudos. Griffin and Szczesniak contribute on the track- the former is on guitar and bass; the latter drums- and make a huge impact. The percussion by Szczesniak is a delirious heartbeat that not only ensures energy levels do not drop- so much weight and propulsion is created, it brings the song’s words and vocals clearly to life. Matching the sense of fascination is the bass and guitar strands: the bass bounces and quivers; its sense of lust excites and seduces- it keeps the song firm and controlled. In addition to O’Brien’s guitars, Griffin’s axe perfectly conjoin with our heroine: the passion, flair and electricity is what makes the song so urgent and insistent. Final mention goes to Jeen herself. As well as ensuring the production is as raw and atmospheric (as it needs to be), her performance is scintillating. Her guitar work weaves and snakes- a hungry and lustful reptile, it perfectly mixes darker notes with elliptical highs- making sure the overall composition is filled with life and diversity. It is the vocal which impresses hardest: able to rank herself alongside the most promising female singers around, that sense of youthful rebellion and mature composure beautifully comes through. In the chorus, Jeen’s chanting and uplifting voice- multi-tracked here- compels you to sing along and join in. During the verses there is more mood and seductiveness: able to summon up a stunning amount of passion and intrigue, few other singers can shift and transform as effectively. Jeen O’ Brien has worked hard on the album (and this song); wondering whether it was worth the effort and wait: on this evidence it certainly has been- the song is a huge triumph.
Buena Vista is a tantalising window into the soul of Tourist: a strong and passionate song, it gives insight into what the album holds and just how intriguing it will sound. Few names- reading this review- may have heard of Jeen, yet that should all change: she is an artist that is making music in a humble and honest way; the recordings are steeped in rushes, heel-kicking soul and impassioned layers- listening to the music takes your mind somewhere else. For all of the sparkle and importance of the studio, it is a rare treat to discover an artist that puts you in their home: gives you something that deeply personal that you cannot help but to connect with it. You do not see it happen that often: back in the early days of The White Stripes, (up until Elephant), the Detroit duo laid their tracks down in (Jack White’s) living room: you could hear that D.I.Y./home-made sound seep through: not only did it lend a unique energy and comfort to the music, but a great deal of excitement and honesty- it would be great to hear more artists adopt this working method. Jeen- and Tourist’s release- should see other acts- new and established- commit to a new approach to music: go back to basics as it were; take the listener deep inside of your heart and present something more natural and open. Buena Vista is a brilliantly evocative and memorable track that is going to wet the appetites of music-lovers and fans: there is massive range (and plenty of treats) to be discovered within Tourist. Offering Folk-tinged stunners such as Industries; the upbeat and infectious Remind Me; the pure grit and lust of Way Up’s compelling riffs- a touching ballad (Orange) completes the album, and is the finale to a multitudinous and variegated album. One of the wonderful things about new music, is discovering something genuinely fresh and original: so many times I have come across an act that gets inside my head as soon as I hear their music. Jeen’s voice, sound and compositions have no boundaries and borders: they implore everyone to come in and investigate; fall in love with the music and take something away from it. When listening to Buena Vista, I drifted away slightly: enraptured by the music, I tried to put myself in the picture; transport myself to Canada (and O’Brien’s attic)- music that draws you that far in should not be overlooked. With her online numbers rising and fresh followers flocking in, it seems only a matter of time before Jeen’s music gets widespread acclaim- in the process, becoming indoctrinated into the minds of us Brits. Without knowing it, you have probably heard Jeen in other songs; in adverts and on the screen- Buena Vista is a chance to see the corporate images and mission statements stripped away; promises and hyperbole taken aside- and the spotlight fall squarely on our heroine. Many times I have stated the joys of unearthing an act that can inspire the writer in you: stir something deep inside that was tucked and buried away- Jeen has certainly achieved that. If British- and European- critics have been artless in arriving late at the shores of Jeen, I hope that the next few days will see a re-appropriation and apologetic missive. If you are a new convert- or simply a first-time witness to the Canadian’s music- then promise me one thing:
DO not miss out on what is to come.
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