The most enthralling thing about this debut album from Jockstrap is how it manages both to be extremely nostalgic and somewhat futuristic at the same time. It is full of sounds you’ve heard before. ‘Greatest Hits’ teems with 90s indie-dance references and reminders of the Madchester scene, ‘Concrete Over Water’ takes us back to early 00s electronica, ‘Debra’ sounds like a hit from the likes of M.I.A. or Santigold in their heyday, while the stunning ‘Lancaster Court’ has indie-folk vibes that make you think of a more off-kilter Laura Marling.
But despite of all these clear influences and touchpoints, I Love You Jennifer B as a whole creates a sound like no other album I’ve ever heard before. The way in which they manage to marry these sounds, to be a dance act one second, indie-folk the next, and then slip into something akin to abstract R&B, is so uniquely them that it felts like they’ve created a genre all of their own.
Holding all of these seemingly disparate elements together is the assured and enchanting performance of vocalist and violinist Georgia Ellery. She seems just at home on a quiet ballad like ‘What’s It All About?’ as she does on the intense and flittering sung sections of ‘Debra’ and its more spoken word verses, using a mix of restraint and release in her voice, an ability to perform like the classically trained singer she is one second and then a humorous club singer the next. Her mesmerising vocals and stunning strings create a heady mix with the synths, keyboards, and percussion of Taylor Skye – often all feeling like they shouldn’t fit together at all. At the same time, though, they feel like the perfect combination at the perfect time.
Adding to this already intriguing blend of sounds and ideas, is a lyrical bent that is just as fascinating and inviting. You won’t always know exactly what Ellery is singing about, but it’s impossible not to be entirely dragged in by her words anyway. Album highlight ‘Glasgow’ is a great example. ‘I know myself/Going around again/I trust myself/I’m a woman she believes in/I touch myself/Every time I see/What’s missing in my life’ is an irresistible set of lines, even if it does hold its meaning at a distance.
Or there is the most amusing and intriguing part of ‘Greatest Hits’, when Ellery breaks into another spoken word section to say ‘Imagine I’m Madonna/Imagine I’m thee Madonna/Dressed in blue/No – dressed in pink/Gabbana/Feather boa/Marie Antoinette/ You wanna know her/’. Does it make an awful lot of sense? No, not really. But it is playful and unique moments like this that grab the attention all the way through I Love You Jennifer B, reminding us that we are in the midst of a very unique duo.
Then, towards the end of the album, is ‘Lancaster Court’ – a song that could have a similar review about how fascinating it is all to itself. Like a gothic horror story, a mini opera, and a meditation aid all in one go – it is a perfect way to end an album that has flitted all over the place but masterfully kept the bands irresistible identity at its core. Unfortunately, they don’t end there – with closer ‘50/50 Extended Mix’ we have the only misstep of the album – which is a shame. But also, when a band is trying to do this many things, it would be surprising if each listener didn’t find at least one element that didn’t gel well with them. Other people might think ‘50/50’ is the highlight. In a way, though, I’m glad that it sits right at the end of the album as this means that I don’t have to press the skip button somewhere in the middle. Instead, I can get lost in this crazy but composed mix of ideas and thoroughly enjoy almost every moment of it.
Words by Fran Slater