Jessica Lea Mayfield

Make My Head Sing…

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After cutting two albums with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jessica Lea Mayfield decided to go it alone for Make My Head Sing..., her ATO debut. While her previous offerings have been somewhat confessional singer/songwriter affairs that juxtaposed rootsy Americana and indie pop, this date moves in almost an entirely different direction. Co-produced with her husband, bassist Jesse Newport, the pair played everything except drums -- not that there's much else. The record's first sound is a feedback-drenched, enormously distorted electric guitar, playing at a plodding pace. It's a shock if you've heard either of her previous records. Her world-weary alto -- trained while singing in her family's bluegrass band -- drifts through many of these riff-laden tunes with an ethereality and confessional playfulness that contrasts sharply with music informed by everyone from Nirvana and early Foo Fighters to Mudhoney, Silverchair ("Oblivious," "I Wanna Love You," "Unknown Big Secret," "Anything You Want"), and even the latter-day Cure ("Do I Have the Time"). Despite the in-your-face attack in some of these cuts, the gorgeous melodies wind their way through the bombast. Elsewhere, "Standing in the Sun" would have been right at home on Tell Me -- albeit with another arrangement. "No Fun" has a minimal, repetitive verse-and-chorus structure, a three-note bassline, and a snare that frame the vocal and vamp, until a careening guitar solo rips the middle wide open yet keeps the melody intact. Closer "Seein* Starz" is a sad love song with a pronounced pop hook accentuating the melancholy. The gentleness in her vocal floats atop the reverbed six-string riff and shimmering melody, creating a layered frame for her heartworn lyric. Make My Head Sing... is confident. One small complaint is that the rockers are so saturated in '90s inspirational sources that those sounds can sometimes overshadow the subtler lyrical aspects in Mayfield's clever songwriting and singing (though her voice is at the front of every track here). It's not a perfect record, but noteworthy for its musical risk-taking and assertive attitude.

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