Darren Jessee has been spellbinding audiences with his music for over a decade and a half now as the drummer behind some of indie rock’s hardest working bands, and now he’s back and ready to conquer the singer/songwriter front with his new album The Jane, Room 217, which hits record stores everywhere this August. The Jane, Room 217 isn’t a rip roar rock n’ roll record but more of a stripped down, low-fidelity exercise in pastoral melodies and introspective songwriting, and it could easily be considered Jessee’s best work to date. I had the pleasure of previewing this album before its release and was quite taken with the caliber of content in which I heard.
Let’s start off with The Jane, Room 217’s framework. This is a pretty eclectic record, even for 2018 standards, but not once in any of its nine elegant slices of indie folk do we feel like Jessee is reaching or trying to milk something out of a shapeless mess of sounds. Instead, The Jane, Room 217 is layered in tiers, starting off at a brisk pace and gradually easing us into the fantastic dirge n’ purge that Jessee does in the latter half of the album. There’s a duality to his sound, but to say that the contrast isn’t deviously alluring would be nothing short of criminal.
From start to finish, whether we’re getting lost in the gentle reverb of “True Blue” or gazing into the radiance of the post-punk inspired Dylan homage “All But a Dream,” The Jane, Room 217 demands a reaction out of us, whether it be an emotionally charged one or even resistance to its bold intimacy. I found myself listening to this record over and over on repeat after first getting my hands on a copy, discovering that with each listen I was able to appreciate a different element of Jessee’s elaborate arrangements and ethereal harmonies. This is indie at its most focused and melodic, no question.
Darren Jessee displays a ton of crossover appeal in this collection of songs, and I really don’t think that the scope of his audience should be limited to the pop/alternative crowd exclusively. There’s an ambience to The Jane, Room 217 that is extraordinarily appealing to avant-garde ears, and the clarity of its final mix lets us really dig deep and study every sonic nuance within each of the songs on an individual basis. Audio buffs and music snobs won’t be disappointed by this record, but the casual listener needn’t be intimidated by its ambitious construction, either.
While there hasn’t been a shortage of exciting acts to emerge this year by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve got to say that The Jane, Room 217 is a lock to contend for breakout album of the year, and I’m not the only critic who thinks so. Darren Jessee boasts so much talent in this latest disc that it’s impossible to ignore the kind of impact that his work could have on music if it’s given the right platform. I for one can’t wait to hear what he does next.