Australian singer/songwriter Laura Jean has been making waves in her native land and beyond since 2006, turning in three albums of thoughtful, introspective indie folk, the most recent of which was 2011's moody, electric guitar-focused A Fool Who'll. For her fourth album, a self-titled set, she traveled to England, recording with veteran producer John Parish (PJ Harvey, Goldfrapp) in Bristol. The result is her most strikingly intimate and deeply affecting album yet. Retreating from the rich chamber folk of her early releases and the amped-up noise of her previous release, Laura Jean pares back the ornamentation to a bare minimum. Backing up her pensive acoustic guitar parts is a skeleton crew of musicians including Parish and engineer Ali Chant along with Norwegian singer Jenny Hval. Never short on darkness, she presents a moody tone here that matches the extremely personal lyrics on songs like the haunting "First Love Song," which pairs a very Bristol-sounding trip hop-type of drum pattern with a stirring minor key guitar/piano ballad about love's troubled beginnings. Other songs are more observational, like the opener "June," a track full of regional Australian references, obscure wordplay, and the first of the album's several references to her Kelpie dog whose image also graces the album cover's photo collage. On what is possibly the album's boldest track "A Mirror on the Earth," she courageously lays bare the details of her conception, early childhood, and lonesome confusion surrounding her parents' divorce. Other songs delve deeply into her marriage to her best friend and the often self-destructive nature of falling in (and losing) love. Heady stuff, for sure, but Laura Jean's poeticism and deep dedication to songcraft make this kind of confessional fare a true work of art. This well-honed collection is easily her best work.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger