‘An Overview on Phenomenal Nature’ by Cassandra Jenkins
Released today, ‘An Overview on Phenomenal Nature’ (Ba Da Bing!) is the stunning new album from native New York songwriter Cassandra Jenkins. In the eight years since the release of her captivating and haunting debut ‘EP’, Jenkins has released a handful of self-released singles and live EP’s, including 2017’s debut album ‘Play Till You Win‘ (Cassandra Complex), which featured a cast of collaborators, including Jenkins’ brother and sister. On her acclaimed debut, Jenkins honed in on the elegantly lush sounds of cosmic Americana, alongside a nod to George Harrison’s 70’s slide guitar sound. The music and songwriting on ‘Play Till You Win’ was accomplished and dreamlike in the arrangements and instrumentation, matched with some lovely southern soul-pop production.
On ‘An Overview on Phenomenal Nature’, Jenkins took a discerning approach to make her new record, starting with a handful of unfinished song ideas and taking them to multi-instrumentalist producer Josh Kaufman‘s (This Is The Kit, The Hold Steady) studio. In a week of finishing ideas and writing, they produced a captivating album that is understated yet confident and fully realised. The sophomore album opens with the first single, ‘Michelangelo‘ and lyrically, the track sets the bar for the rest of the album, which features some of Jenkins most crushing songwriting to date. The first verse is packed with introspective lyrics, ‘There’s a fly above my head waiting for the day I drop dead’. Jenkins intimate voice is the first instrument to be heard on the album, and it captivates from the start. A brief and collected fuzzy guitar solo sits nicely in the slow-burning indie rock song which has a mellow country feel, similar to ‘Harvest’ era Neil Young.
On ‘New Bikini’, the laidback shuffling of drums and shimmering saxophone complements a memory of personal mourning. Jenkins’ takes the advice of friends and later advises a friend of ill health to jump in the ocean, ‘the water, it cures everything’. The track is sublime and melancholic but hopeful. ‘Ambiguous Norway‘ is another moving sentiment for anyone who has lost love or a loved one. In this case, as in ‘New Bikini’, David Berman’s passing influences the lyrical content, ‘You’re gone, you’re everywhere’, Jenkins was to go on tour with Berman’s Purple Mountains group before his untimely passing in 2019. The track is meditative and heavenly, as twinkling synths and yearning strings float behind the singer’s whispering vocals.
The second single, ‘Hard Drive‘, is something of a miniature opus that will undoubtedly be the track that claims the album and makes the best of lists of 2021. A novel and natural spoken word and conversational style of songwriting weave into a track with breezy flourishes of saxophone echoing ‘Kaputt’ era Destroyer. The track is wide open and rich with a cast of characters, including the ‘overview’ of an exhibition from a security guard in red lipstick. The singers perfectly pronounced New York accent fits the storytelling narration as the track drifts along and could go on forever. ‘Crosshairs‘ is a beautiful song that showcases Jenkins’ pop songwriting sensibilities and delicate range, featuring acoustic guitar and piano, with lush instrumentation, which drops in and out, adding to the graceful production. Throughout the album, Jenkins’ expressive voice sits on top and inside each track, maintaining a pace and style that drips gently, singing with a breath.
On ‘Hailey’ Jenkins sings and celebrates the power of a woman named ‘Hailey’ over a fingerpicking guitar accompanied by a synth drone which builds up slowly in the background. Closing the album is an immersive seven-minute instrumental/ambient sound art piece called ‘The Ramble’, which threads together the sounds featured throughout ‘… Phenomenal Nature’ including saxophone, flutes, synths and field recordings of birds.
‘… Phenomenal Nature’ arrives just under four years since her debut release. In that time, Jenkins has played across the USA, performing solo and with a revolving band and performing in several line ups such as Lola Kirke, Eleanor Friedberger and Craig Finn. The journey to this second album has been extensive, at times endless and weary. Jenkins has had to play the long game; however, she has knocked it out of the park, and it feels like stars have aligned with this release. With the world in a full-blown existential crisis, ‘An Overview on Phenomenal Nature’ nourishes the soul and resets the dials. On her sophomore release, Jenkins sounds like an artist in the moment, letting creativity and freedom pave the way. ‘… Phenomenal Nature’ is a highly recommended headphone listen. If you have the time to take it in, sit back and absorb the art of reflective emotion.
For UK Dinked special edition, go here: dinkededition.co.uk/cassandra-jenkins-an-overview-on-phenomenal-nature and visit Bandcamp to stream and/or purchase your copy.