Friday, October 21, 2011

Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter- Reckless Burning (2002) / Oh, My Girl (2004) MP3 & FLAC

"Pretty thing, I've got you, right where I used to be. We ride across this city, 
starting fires recklessly."

Jesse Sykes: "I met Phil Wandscher in 1998 in a dive bar back when Seattle still had dive bars (how I miss those times!). I think I knew instantly upon meeting him that my life would change forever- just a gut feeling I guess, but I was right!" At the time of this fortuitous meeting, Sykes had just seen both her music career and personal life take a dark turn, as Hominy, the band she had started with her then-husband Jim Sykes, quickly dissolved following the release of their eponymous debut album, and it wasn't long before their marriage suffered a similar fate. Wandscher was best known as one of the founding members of Whiskeytown, the brilliantly combustive Alt-Country band from Raleigh N.C. that also featured Ryan Adams, who, during a legendary 1997 meltdown at a show in Kansas City, fired the entire band, including Wandscher, telling the stunned crowd, "You've just saw the last fuckin' Whiskeytown show!" before proceeding to smash his guitar and storm off stage. Ousted from the band he had helped create, Wandscher, thoroughly disillusioned, drifted to Seattle and was working in a restaurant when he crossed paths with Jesse Sykes. Both nursing emotional wounds, a romance sparked immediately, but their musical partnership was something that evolved at a more measured pace. Sykes: "Phil was really reluctant to work with, well, his girlfriend [....] But it just kinda morphed anyway; it was inevitable. People will warn you, but I like working with someone you're in a relationship with. There's a greater level of intimacy and trust [....] and when you're sleeping with someone, it's actually a lot easier to say 'fuck you' or 'that's a shitty song.'" After initially gigging around Seattle as a duo, Sykes and Wandscher decided to assemble a full band, and, after doing so, quickly garnered enough critical praise for their languidly dark approach to psych-laced Americana that they were soon signed by indie label Devil in the Woods, allowing them to immediately set about recording their debut LP, Reckless Burning.

Jesse Sykes
 Sykes: "I like to refer to that time of my life as 'the reckless burning years.' It was less about making that record than it was learning how to just 'be.' Two estranged people going into lonely dark places- beautiful places. All we had was each other. We didn't even talk that much but somehow we just knew each other's story. That record was our story." Powerfully conveying the bitter pain and foggy, desolate spaces of emotional loss, Reckless Burning is clearly indebted to certain aspects of traditional Appalachian music, but the laconic darkness of Wandscher's noirish guitar-work and Sykes' bewitchingly distinctive alto subtly and quietly push the music into dreamy regions more commonly associated with psych-rock. Nowhere is this more evident than on the stunningly mournful title track, a song often compared to The Cowboy Junkies, but in truth, walks fifty paces further into unmitigated darkness than anything the Timmons siblings would be capable of committing to tape (okay, maybe with the exception of "Sweet Jane"). And while the song charts a slow descent into the numbness of emotional resignation, conveyed unforgettably through the lyrics and Sykes' world-weary vocals, it ends where such pain always ends, in abject ambiguity, as an equally dreamy rendition of "Goodnight Irene" brings "Reckless Burning" to its conclusion. Another standout track, "Don't Let Me Go," uses a slightly brighter country-influenced arrangement to counter-balance the song's dark emotional subject matter, weaving a subtle sense of irony into the song's overall tone. Sykes: "When I sat down and started playing some of the original songs that later became Reckless Burning, it just felt like he [Wandscher] was building the house that the songs lived in [....] He gave them the visual, cinematic aspect that they needed. He would create these little vignettes within the song- that other character answering back to my vocals [....] It's almost like I never had to articulate my vision to him; it became intact and fully realized as soon as he started playing on the songs. We're just hard wired into the same muse." As in the dream-state itself, Reckless Burning and its equally gorgeous follow-up, Oh, My Girl, take familiar elements and by re-arranging and re-imagining them, create something uncannily meaningful, a sound that charts the darkest interstices of the human heart while managing to feel both timeless and new.

Reckless Burning 
 (Burn Burn Burn ~ 2002)

1. Reckless Burning  (6:54)
2. Doralee  (4:10)
3. Lonely Still  (4:47)
4. Your Side Now  (5:05)
5. Don't Let Me Go  (3:37)
6. Drinking with Strangers  (4:22)
7. Made of Wood  (5:01)
8. Love Me, Someday  (3:53)
9. Lullaby  (4:45)

Oh, My Girl  
(Barsuk ~ 2004)

 1. Oh, My Girl  (4:38)
 2. You Are Not Gotten Here  (4:17)
 3. Troubled Soul  (5:09)
 4. The Dreaming Dead  (6:04)
 5. Your Eyes Told  (5:31)
 6. Tell the Boys  (3:53)
 7. Birds Over Water  (6:37)
 8. Winter Hunter  (5:37)
 9. House By the Lake  (5:32)
10. Grow a New Heart  (5:34)


  1. Thanks a bunch. I'll be adding these to my phone for sure.

  2. MAZE, these are incredibly good albums. I think I'll post the other two and a couple of EPs in the near future

  3. Thank you voixautre for posting yet another band that I need to listen to.

  4. scurfie, you're welcome. This band is an absolute favorite of mine

  5. jesus christ, the KEXP concert clip blew me away. somehow I missed to transfer the bookmark of killingmoon to my new laptop. so I missed some stuff, but it's awesome to get back here and find stuff like sykes.

  6. Philipp, good to have you back with us :)

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