Jessica Lea Mayfield's fourth solo LP, Sorry Is Gone, continues a career push-and-pull between soft-spoken country-rock and more assertive, riff-fueled indie rock. While her debut featured more of the former and her third solo album, 2014's Make My Head Sing..., embraced the latter, on Sorry Is Gone she takes her foot off the gas just a little and finds a zone where heartache and empowerment both sit comfortably. Of note, the album was written during Mayfield's separation from her husband and prior music collaborator, Jesse Newport. After recording two albums with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and Make My Head Sing... with Newport, she headed to the studio with a producer who has a knack for finding this type of raw sweet spot, John Agnello (Sonic Youth, the Hold Steady). Combined with fuzz and twang, dreamy echo, and an unrestrained drawl, Mayfield's often woebegone delivery is also sharpened by candid, occasionally snide lyrics: "Any tips on how to feel more human/Or how to un-dehumanize someone/I'm only asking for a friend." Those are the opening words to the album's lone acoustic ballad, "Safe 2 Connect 2." It falls midway through a track list of an urgent borderline dream pop invigorated by guest musicians including Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Grails bassist Emil Amos. A track like "Bum Me Out" leans more into post-punk and grunge, while "Soaked Through" diverges into shoegaze, but whether spare or raucous, they're all tied together by an emphatic reverb, the songwriter's conversational melodies, and sonic and lyrical grit. Without wishing her the same kind of personal inspiration in the future, it's Mayfield's most compelling work yet.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson