Jessie Kilguss – What Do Whales Dream About at Night?

pic by Shervin Lainez

You can say that the role of lead singles, aside from hopefully sharing rich enjoyment, is to offer lures which spark curiosity and intrigue for a larger proposal. It is fair to say that the trio of singles leading the way to the release of What Do Whales Dream About at Night? were extremely potent in both aspects but would the new album from NYC singer songwriter JESSIE KILGUSS live up to their promise.

To be honest we were expecting nothing less than what we expected but assumptions soon met with greater surprise and the confirmation of one striking and sublimely captivating proposition. What Do Whales Dream About at Night? is a collection of songs cast in Kilguss’ prowess as a storytelling lyricist and intimation weaving songwriter. The album sees her cast a sound marrying indie pop and folk with rock and Americana essences, a palette of flavours as rich as her imagination driven invention and a voice which equally enthrals. It is a release which had us fascinated and riveted from start to finish with moments which simply beguiled like few other moments this past year.

With many of its songs and contemplations inspired by books such as The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht,  Jonathan Ames’ You Were Never Really Here, and The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob as well as the poem Headphones by Ukrainian poet and musician Serhiy Zhadan, What Do Whales Dream About at Night? sees Kilguss joined by drummer Brian Griffin (Patti Smith, Brandi Carlisle, Lana Del Rey), bassist Whynot Jansveld (The Wallflowers, Butch Walker, Sara Bareilles), the guitar of award-winning composer and producer Naren Rauch, and Nathan Schram (Bjork, David Crosby, David Byrne), with whom she runs the non-profit organization Musicambia.

The marriage of her lyrical artistry and musical invention is soon an open book as House of Rain and Leaves opens up the release, the song gently caressing ears with the harmonic tempting of Kilguss quickly adding to the warmth. The just as tender coaxing of guitar soon cradles her magnetic tones and lyrical picture making, the song weaving a visually atmospheric and increasingly lively proposal throughout.

It is a richly alluring start which Outside soon escalates with its pop rock stroll and Kilguss’ vibrant tones, the swing to both soon under the skin as rhythms add their own perky energy. With a vein of defiance to it, the track quickly hit the spot; its inventive detours echoing the inspiration of previous decades with new invention.

The equally outstanding Great White Shark follows, stepping forward with melancholy draped musing and its similarly lit guitar melody. As intimacy is shared in its contemplation of a relationship with the volatility of the sea to it so drama and tension arise in the suggestiveness of the music, as too rich infectiousness which becomes more robust and irresistible by the moment.

The Tiger’s Wife similarly has certain drama to its design and breath, rhythms a safari of suggestiveness in a landscape which evolves and changes as thoughts and enterprise bring new ear gripping aspects while Coyote Street offers a slice of Americana tinged rock which also reeled us in with its unpredictable but creatively flowing body of folkish artistry and pop virulence.

 The album’s title track is next up, a song casting an atmospheric breeze of harmonium coaxing around Kilguss’ vocal beauty before breaking into an inspiriting stroll wrapped in Schram stringed magnetism. The song simply beguiled and seduced with smiling prowess and dramatic individuality, the song a poetic and poignant light on the heinous times being faced by Zhadan’s homeland and around the world. 

Sleepwalking Heart ambles in draped in harmonium musing, the words and thoughts of Kilguss soon shared with matching emotive sensitivity. Melancholic in breath and touch, the song has an inherent energy which rises to the surface within its magnetic and manipulative chorus, ears and imagination again finding themselves hungrily aligned before leaping upon the pop rock shuffle of Roman Candles. Galvanic in every aspect, the glorious track had us bouncing and hollering in tandem as the album turned another creative page in its temptation.

You Were Never Really Here brings the album to a fine close, a final musing for ears and thoughts as they easily slipped with Kilguss into a last moment of rich storytelling for emotions and imagination.

What Do Whales Dream About at Night? promised to be an imaginative encounter going but presents an adventure far more striking, refreshing and irresistible, a pleasure all should bless their ears with.

What Do Whales Dream About at Night? is out now: available @ 

Pete RingMaster 24/11/2022

Copyright RingMaster Review

Categories: Album, Music

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