Jenny Gillespie

Independent release, 2010

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Musical eccentricity is not a trait that is usually associated with singer-songwriters. There is no place for fancy self-expression in forms other than clever wordplay when all you are supposed to have in your musical arsenal is a lonesome acoustic guitar.

Jenny Gillespie comes from this very musical discipline. Her 2009 alt-folk debut my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Light Year fit the singer-songwriter mold. But things took quite a turn when she met Austin TX-based multi-instrumentalist Darwin Smith, which resulted in the pleasantly frankensteinian Kindred, her sophomore effort. This is an album where Gillespie seems to have taken all the contemplative, eerie and vague ideas in her head and decided to express them as truthfully as possible – not just lyrically, but more importantly, musically.

Kindred was recorded in an old house in Wilmette, a village in Illinois. But don’t let this fool you into believing that this is a rustic album that brings crickets and campfires straight into your listening space. Far from it – Gillespie avails the use of modern electronic music to bring alive the rainbow of dreams in her head. The electronic sound on Kindred is as much a part of its personality as its folk roots. Gillespie and Smith seem to know exactly how to use electronic music to produce the desired effects without overshadowing the folkiness of this record.

Like a true folk album, this has a soft and meditative mood. The electronic sounds are hushed and muted and understatedly but effectively create the dreamy and whimsical atmosphere that Gillespie is trying to conceive. Influences of Kate Bush definitely abound in this respect on Kindred. Gillespie is no Kate Bush, but she definitely shares Bush’s smarts in using eccentric ideas and electronics to create brilliant folk music.

In addition to synthesizers and programming, there are plenty of fanciful instruments – rhodes, melodica, farfisa, bells, cello, upright bass, pedal steel, flute, saxophone, trumpet and French horn – giving life to the fanciful music on this album. Kindred is strange and beautiful. It is an atypical folk album, but Gillespie is not your typical folk musician either.

Rating: A-

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