Jen Lush-Let Loose the Beating Birds | In between notes
Jen Lush sure knows how to make an entrance. It isn’t flamboyant and derivative, its truly a sound she has found after years of working for it. Her new album Let Loose the Beating Birds is an album that reflects just that. Burrowing deeper to find purer, cleaner sound and meanings synonymous to the fleeting feelings that we can’t explain, this album is a passionate resolve. Lets explore the album with Jen Lush herself.
Letting the instruments sing
Opening the album with an almost prog-indie style song, The Seagull is an epic condensed to five and a half minutes. With sounds that marinate in space before entering what can be called the melody scape, Jen and her band explore a lot. Using simple, memorable progressions, the opening track is her best foot forward.
World’s on A Wire syncopates the vocals and instrumentals to form a beautiful march between the two. It has the instruments set against Jen Lush’s smooth voice, as it settles down to tell the tale. The solos mirror the melody but veer into its own path, borrowing from the likes of vocalist greats of the Valley. Jen tells us about the process of recording this album:
We started releasing as a band first – working on arrangements for the songs I had written, listening to reference music from other artists, and trying to find the very best telling of the songs. The band were fairly new to playing together at that point, so it was an exploration of each persons own influences and striking the right balance between being intuitive and being very deliberate in the shaping of the songs.
Once we had scheduled the recording, James Brown (electric guitarist, and producer/engineer/mixer at Wizard Tone) orchestrated a very easy process, recording all of the tracks live, with guide vocals, and then going back and recording my vocals later, whilst adding more layers to the electric guitar work, keys and Hammond, Wurlitzer and backing vocals. It was a drawn out process because we all have other projects but we all had a great time making this album.
Changing pace and melding styles
Fireground adopts a quicker, classic rock vibe. The electric and acoustic complement each other, as Jen sings like Alison Krauss with Union Station. We hear a wave of sound after the first minute, completely engulfing our psyche as the song becomes more immersive and sharpened with layers. The specific tonal shift that Jen perfects in each song depending on the dynamic is what makes it stand out, flickering like a candle’s flame. The theme of the album was something that intrigued me, so I asked Jen about it:
Although the album is a collection of stories and thoughts that have occupied my thinking over the past few years, there is a focus on the small moments of motherhood and idiosyncrasies of relationships, whilst taking in the current political and environmental landscape of the times we are in. So the close up and the wider view.. and birds..!
I have conflicted feelings about birds, they represent both terror and inexplicable beauty. I am afraid of them (if they are close by) but I admire and delight in them from afar. They appear in many of my songs, representing anxiety, or the beauty in our natural world, or a freedom. The beautiful singing bird, and the flapping of wings in my rib cage are both very strong images for me. Letting loose the beating birds is as much speaking about anxiety as it is about releasing stories.
The effective layers of melody
Glass is a carefully crafted, simple track with some gorgeous fingerstyle and Jen at her best. As the layers are stripped away, this is her voice closest to natural, and leads to a exodus of several meanings and qualities. Leaning into the brilliance of Tom Petty & other great songwriters, Dust is one such track. Lush’s poetry is in full flow here as well, as gentle flourishes make this simple song a heartwarming and sensitive delight. By sound, Jen’s sound has changed in many ways since her last album, The Night’s Insomnia. As she is privy to the sorcery she has put in effect here, I asked her about the same:
Since The Night’s Insomnia (which is an album of songs wrapped around the contemporary poetry of 12 Australian writers) I have been focusing on my own lyric writing, really spending time crafting the words and honing the music. Where I enjoyed having a limited palette with the previous album, it has been exciting to have a full band, including drums and keys at our disposal, the possibilities in the music become much broader.
The influences that each of the guys bring to the work is significant and definitely affects the music in new and interesting ways. I also think I have a developed a different confidence in the studio working on this new album, and I feel I’ve been more playful vocally as well, exploring the arrangements of each song in new ways.
The influence of poetry – reading it, being absorbed in it, has caused me to take a different approach to songwriting, where the words might dictate the direction of the music now, rather than the musical structure determining the pattern of the words I sing or the melodies I find.
On the footprints of greats
Gold Thread follows a familiar pattern of a Paul Simon song, with the tale taking turns to the destination. The simple fingerpicking and vocals focus on just the symphony and melody as the chord structure forms a warm, intimate frame. With The Valley, Jen and her group venture into the sheath of reverberating synth/electric guitar sounds. As this Bon Iver/The Paper Kites style of delivery is a fantastic chord structure with a unique take on the sound as well. The harmony towards the end makes it sound otherworldly. Superb work on this track, all highs till now.
Well, you can’t tread lightly with a song called Black Hammer. The drums dominate for the first time on this album, in a welcome change of pace. The unique chord progression makes this song something to look forward to , with the story being told as well. The change at 2:48 is especially timed very well, symbolizes the wave landing on the shore in some ways. Crush is another minimal song with bare soundscape and Jen’s voice once again morphing to suit the need. Wonderful placement of chords to the vocals-like the mastery of Thom Yorke from Radiohead. Jen has more music planned in the coming months, so stay tuned to her Spotify to know more!
Performing & shows
I will be releasing three more singles from the current album with videos next year, and I’m looking to record a new album early next year of poem songs – a project that was commissioned by Denmark Arts in WA, for the Denmark Festival of Voice this year in June. It’s a collaboration with 5 Australian poets and I’ve created songs from their writing. Similar to The Night’s Insomnia, but it will be nine songs and recorded with my current band (and maybe a few guests along the way!) And live shows for sure!
I’ll be performing with my band – a couple of shows in the Adelaide Fringe Festival and hopefully some interstate touring later in the year. I also collaborate with other artists, co-writing songs and other projects so I’m hoping to dig into some new songs with others next year too!
Closing the album with Cinder & Stone and the track Bend the Trees, Jen Lush uses her favourite acoustic fingerstyle aided by synths to create a clever climax. This album is by far her best work, but I trust she has more to come. Following with this theme of expressing her innermost thoughts and desires with virtue, Jen translates them all successfully to songs with a different fingerprint. Listen to the words have this effortless interplay with the instruments, neither of them getting in the way of each other. Truly melodic music.