Seattle singer-songwriter Jesse Sykes has long been uncomfortable with critical responses to her music as dark, lonely, and deeply depressed; instead (as she's taken to saying), she plays "spooky American music." This may seem like a minor semantic quibble, but it's crucial to getting your head around Sykes' second full-length with her band, The Sweet Hereafter. Yes, this album can feel incredibly dark, lonely, and depressive at its most upbeat, the album brings to mind 1973-era Crazy Horse as fronted by '60s avant-torch singer Patty Waters but only inasmuch as that's the mindset a listener brings to it. Sykes' ghostly, country-noir rock has an otherworldly presence that's more about atmosphere than content: What she's singing about is always less important than the ways her voice infiltrates your personal space. And with songs stripped to their most gripping essentials primarily Sykes' bewitching, dusky alto and ex-Whiskeytown guitarist Phil Wandscher's spare, sympathetic guitar lines Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul aims to haunt that space for a long time to come.
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