Sloppy Jane: Madison Album Review

Several years ago, Haley Dahl was heartbroken. Then, in a poetic gesture, he became obsessed with another type of void: caves. Dahl, who plays Sloppy Jane, realized that a cave, a natural echo chamber, would be a great place to record an album. After exploring many options, he chose West Virginia’s Lost World Caverns as his underground recording studio. For two weeks in 2019, Dahl, 21 fellow musicians, and a film crew walked underground between 3 p.m. and 8 a.m. to record. The descent was just the first logistical difficulty: getting a piano underground took a day in each direction, and the humid conditions required placing the recording equipment in a car on the surface and hanging the cables through a hole.

Dahl has great visions but also, fundamentally, the determination to actually realize them; Sloppy Jane is the exhibit A. Dahl started the band as a Los Angeles high school student, working with a number of collaborators that at one point included Phoebe Bridgers, whose Dead Oceans label Saddest Factory is releasing the new Sloppy Jane album. , Madison. Now based in Brooklyn, the band has evolved from a punk project to something more like cutting edge chamber pop, with performances in which Dahl throws blue paint on a suit that he plans to one day eat.

Dahl has said that Madison It was “written as a great gesture for someone I was trying to make love me.” Over and over again, the songs feel caught between the expected romance and a hard-to-swallow reality. “Party Anthem” is trapped in a prison of unrequited love, but the band’s rousing orchestras make Dahl’s repentance sound bombastic. “Sorry, I couldn’t be / All I needed to be,” he says. In the downcast piano ballad “Jesus and Your Living Room Floor,” she wonders if it’s easier to be appreciated in the afterlife. As the music gradually expands into dramatic distortion, it is clear that the underground recording effort paid off: every instrument, from a thick drum to the full-throttle guitar that eventually comes together, sounds. massive.

Madison it’s full of beauty, but Dahl’s explorations of pain and insecurity don’t prevent ugliness. She imagines herself collapsing to the ground covered in ants, or swallowing fast-setting concrete and plunging into a lake; her voice shakes as she describes herself as “a prisoner in a tin-faced bridal dove body.” In “The Constable,” he sees a man cruelly kicking a dog, and instead of backing off, he gets excited: “And God / wanted that dog to be me.” The anguish she squeezes out of that “God” is a punch to the stomach.

Dahl often juxtaposes his grotesque stuff with whimsical instrumentation, making them feel especially twisted, but also a bit romantic. “Judy’s Bedroom,” a sad hymn reminiscent of Velvet Underground’s “After Hours,” recounts the real-life murder of the main character by her husband. “Judy does what she wants / Because now she’s with Jesus,” Dahl sings with macabre warmth. “Lullaby Formica”, a horse-themed dreamlike version of the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians”, ends on a bleak but poignant note: “If you turn into a carousel / Or if they sell you for glue / Or if you’re cold for me / My tongue will stick to you. “

Dahl is an imaginative lyricist and her images, while not direct, are always delightful. But it is a testament to her strength as a songwriter that her instrumental arrangements are equally evocative. “Bianca Castafiore” (as the opera singer of Tintin) is a backwards instrumental in which Dahl performs wordless vocal stunts, “whoo-hoos” and “oohs” flipping through the air. “How come you only touch me when you brush my hair? / You don’t care,” Dahl sings in the title track with lively, theatrical despair. A third of the way, the song’s symphony goes sour and the audience lets out an “aww.” But Dahl is more than capable of running the show.


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