Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul [Barsuk]

Rating: 6.0

I don’t know how many of you have experienced this situation in your adult or childhood lives but picture for a moment, if you will, sitting in a classroom surrounded by middle schoolers all impatiently tapping their feet on the ground trying desperately to reign in the imperturbable insanity that you can clearly see is roiling just below the surface and, all the while, you desperately have to pee. It would not be my intention so early in this review to share any story of incontinence, and rest assured that all evacuations were made in the perfunctory manner without the need of either towels or shame – sometimes there is such a thing as a happy ending! – however we are at times dealt certain hands, and we must live with the cards which we are given. These hands can vary according to the day and the game, from sitting surrounded by twelve year olds while a constant pressure exerted from inside your body makes you seriously question the quality of your composition to reviewing the new Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter album, like, love, and the open halls of the soul, not that these two hands are entirely dissimilar.

Listen to songs off the new album HERE

The first time I listened to this album I thought, oh, how fortunate I am. There is something undeniably pleasurable about listening to a new album for the first time – notes seem crisper, colors seem brighter, and yes, apples seem fresher. But once you get beyond this initial stage of infatuation, once the honeymoon is over, you have to be able to wake up, roll over in bed and live with the decisions you’ve made. And despite my initial pleasure listening to like, love, and the open halls of the soul (heretofore known as llatohots), I suggest that this album might not be the one, that despite the pleasures it provides it may be too early to book a trip home to meet the family.

From the very first listen it’s obvious that Jesse Sykes has talent. Her voice whispers in a way that’s easily approachable, hinting at a regional accent without divulging location or desire. However, there is a complexity to the music that does a disservice to the content of the emotions that obviously lay beneath the surface of melodies and crescendos, to the bittersweet lyrics that provide the message in Jesse Syke’s lilting voice – “so, sing us your praises / it is without regret / some say there’s too much love / we just haven’t found ours yet.” It seems that The Sweet Hereafter was given a 32 track recorder and decided that the day would not be complete until each track was filled to the red line which, though this works for some bands (may the Brian Wilson’s and Phil Elvrum’s of the world unite), causes llatohots to appear ready to collapse under its own weight.

Now, to return to an earlier point, imagine yourself sitting in the middle of a room surrounded by middle school kids, all talking yelling staring keenly forward or shoving the kid beside them, waiting for something or someone be it student, teacher, tutor, or commercial to tell them what to do. Imagine that each child you sit down next to is able to glean some amount of satisfaction, some small reward, for your presence in that room, a reward given freely and for which you are almost the more grateful. Further, now imagine in the midst of gifts freely given, of knowledge openly imparted, that there exists deep within your body a desire to evacuate your bowels that borders on the biblical.

There is a reason for your actions, there is a cause, a cost, and a reward. llatohots seems to have this in common with that unfortunate situation – even though the pleasure is clear in the moments immediately following pushing the play button, a need is felt that interrupts that pleasure, that distracts from what you had hoped would be a pure and rewarding experience. It is a matter of personal taste and proximity to the necessary facilities that will dictate how long you will continue on, whether the task at hand involves a room full of adolescent angst or an initial listening of llatohots.

And let it not be a poor reflection on the quality of the new album that after listening through only twice I chose to push the Stop, Rewind, and Eject buttons in the manner of music being discarded. I was also forced to leave the kids in order to satisfy other needs, equally rewarding, equally necessary, but with the option always remaining to stop, turn around, and continue back into the classroom.

-Michael Gilbert

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