Written Before Listen
It’s December and you know what that means. It’s time to wrap up the year with our final reviews. This time, we’re doing something not too famous but pretty critically acclaimed. Sloppy Jane is another art pop artist that I’m going to approach this year and when it comes to art pop of this year, we’ve gotten some good releases. Spellling released something beautifully enchanting and the mix of progressive structures and fairytale aesthetics are literally adorable. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis created something suspenseful and melancholic to create Carnage and Feu Chatterton showed that Art Pop isn’t an English-speaking exclusive. I will also like to note that this is a signee of the one and only Phoebe Bridgers and if you know me, you know that I think Phoebe is queen. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Unlike most records this year, songwriting was the first thing that caught me. A lot of the subjects are dark, dismal, and sometimes religious. It’s weird because instrumentally, this album can be playful and childlike. With songs like “Jesus In Your Living Room Floor”, she confronts heaven and pledges allegiance to Jesus. I think my favorite lyrical piece is “Judy’s Bedroom” because of the topic. It’s all about the murder of Judy Bruce and for a person who took a full year of forensics, this song is well done despite feeling like a creative science project. Other than that, Haley is a strong writer all over this album.
The big thing about this album is where it was recorded. This album was recorded in a cave….literally. For the span of two weeks, Haley and 21 other people recorded this album in the Lost World Caverns in West Virginia. She decided to record full-on orchestras, grand pianos, and a drum set all in this deep cave. That is saying a lot as I’ve never heard of such a thing.
How well does the cave do in this setting? Ok. Some of the songs are more rock-oriented songs, the songs just don’t sound as good and the vocals are occasionally too much on the reverb. One thing I will give Haley is that…THEY RECORDED THIS IN A CAVE. I don’t know if the aesthetic of the album would drastically change if this was recorded in a different location yet I do think the idea worked for the lyrics. At the same time, people have written songs with this subject and made great produced songs without a cave. I’m on the fence when it comes to the production. We’ll just see how it affects my enjoyment of this album in the long run.
Sloppy Jane took a lot of one particular artist and you all know who I’m about to say. She took a lot of influence from Kate Bush. The storytelling, the aura of her music as well as her dramatic and melancholic vocal performance. Alongside that, I think Sufjan influences her songwriting, and artists like The Beatles and The Beach Boys have influences on the arrangements. Especially with the baroque influence. Lastly, I think a lot of modern classical is a primary influence point for Haley. Composers like Stravinsky and Bernstein come to mind, especially with the interludes. Overall, I like the artists she takes influences from, but my major problem is that….so many artists have taken influence from these artists. So many people have taken the Kate Bush influence and to do it well, you have to stand out as a vocalist and arranger and Haley has some time to develop that in her shoes. So many people have given nods to Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper to the point where those albums are cliche to bring into the conversation. Other than that, it doesn’t shy away from the quality of the music, It’s just hard not to think about sometimes.
Other than her spots of influence, I think the ideas aren’t as grand as they come off to be. Other than that, my biggest gripe has to be the penultimate track “The Constable”. I like some of the lyrics but the track length and how much it takes in the album holds the potential of this album. With that being said, Sloppy Jane creates an ambitious pop record just with slight instances of overdoing it.
I’m not trying to be harsh on this album because I did enjoy it a lot. I just don’t think it’s as grand as the rollout pretends to be. I think everyone is overreacting because she’s signed to Pheobe and this album is a stylistic shift recorded in a cave, but without context and background knowledge, this is just an above-average art pop album with predictable Kate Bush worship.