Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter

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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