Killing Time and Wondering Why with ‘Jeanines’
On June 14th, a week before the longest day of the year, Brooklyn-based Jeanines’ self-titled, debut album was released. It plots a suburban western, featuring a protagonist kicking up dust just to pass the time.
The record lunges forward with “Either Way” and its buzzing bass line, sun-kissed with bright guitars and frantic rhythms. Alicia Jeanine’s voice sits still, unwavering in the back-and-forth. Her songwriting pens a more one-sided conversation, however (“Even though I don’t know how you feel, I thought that we, we could make a deal.”) The words live in an endless summer, the ultimate in-between before one’s next big thing; as she sings her way through it, Jeanine is more mindful than most. Jed Smith of My Teenage Stride and Mick Trouble, lends a hand-- weaving in a melodic and punchy rhythm section to match Jeanine’s jangling guitars. This arrangement, coupled with Jeanine’s penchant for 60’s girl group melodies, makes for pristine trifles of lo-fi pop.
Jeanines runs for just under half an hour, with most songs just nearly missing the two minute mark. “You Were Mine” comes in midway through the record, and delights listeners slowly but surely. Even with “the sunlight in her eyes,” Jeanine is uneasy (“Cast on the shoreline of my troubled mind”) and unsure of where she stands (“You had that look in your eye, still don’t understand it.”) There’s not much more to do, but mull over her next move and wait for clearer signs. Her tone is patient until she hauls into the chorus, where discordant harmonies elaborate for a more twee approach. Fittingly, with this release, the band joins Slumberland Records. Home to artists who have honed their punk sensibilities into pop songwriting, like Velocity Girl and The Aislers Set, Jeanines are in good company.
Expanding more on their influences, Jeanines include a melancholy take of The Siddeleys’ “Falling Off of My Feet Again,” a track perfectly suited for Jeanine’s breezy, deadpan falsetto. Similarly, “All the Same” recalls the work of groups like Heavenly and Marine Girls, with Smith’s bouncing bass and peppy drum work. Jeanine’s guitar leads the song while her voice floats over it, brittle after being expelled from someone’s life. She contemplates leaving, even traveling the seas to a far-off place (“Run to the ocean, sail away across the sea,”) only to come to the conclusion that a change in scenery won’t help her grief (“Places all look different, but they’re really all the same.”) The ahhh’s that punctuate the track are a charming release, exhaling from all the anxiety and confusion.
However, the penultimate number— “Is It Real”— is the true gem of Jeanines. While thematically in line with the majority of the album, tackling time and its passing (“All my friends are growing older, ’guess I’m growing older too,”) it also serves to be something akin to an artist statement (“But what can I do, ’think I’ll write a story about the way that it feels.”) Sunny and saccharine, Jeanines’ songs ratify what happens in the meantime, when one’s only option is to watch what happens next. In their world, one has to wade through angst and trepidation. Only after that, does any clarity comes to pass. When the protagonist tires out and the dust settles, all there can be is the clear, blue sky.