Reviews

I’m delighted to have been recommended by some fellow artists I admire:

“There are a number of musicians I know who are clearly fictional characters”:

http://jamesbellcentral.net/2016/10/30/all-the-sad-stories-by-jessica-law/

“A whole globulant dollop of mandolin all over it”:

https://steampunkopera.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/all-the-sad-stories-by-jessica-law/

And here’s what the press say:

Nightshift Magazine, December 2014 – Languid Little Lies EP

Jessica Law has been reviewed a couple of times in the demo pages, a singularly incongruous presence with her often startling mix of 1930s music hall chanteuse and 19th Century gin house harpy. This latest collection of songs doesn’t see her compromising this stance an inch, the dappled, folky “The Mermaid’s Revenge” as sweet as she gets, mandolin and violin underpinning her simultaneously plaintive and playful voice which interweaves with Timothy Ledsam’s backing vocals, the whole thing a softly swirling Arcadian waltz that feels like being in the middle of a shower of falling Autumn leaves. Lovely.

From here she’s off through the trees like a Victorian wood sprite, sometimes shrill and caustic, even bawdy at times, but equally capable of swooning and cooing gentle lullabies amid the thrum of often arcane instrumentation (come on, everyone has a resonator mandolele on their Christmas list, right?).

Over the course of six songs such a startling voice, with its prominent quaver, can get a bit too much – “Jekyll & Hyde 4eva” is a bit too Victoria Wood – but it’s a small price to pay for the best bits of a musician whose style and musical aim is pleasingly far removed from what passes for contemporary in these parts and, like the antique dress she sports on her photo, belongs in another age but holds up remarkably well to the passage of time.

The Daily Album Recommends: The Littlest Libertine (August 2013)

“Potentially the only critique of The Littlest Libertine is that it’s too short, but these six tracks are packed with emotions, surprise and wit.”

Today’s album comes from Jessica Law, a folk singer/songwriter from Oxford, England. Although she includes the “dieselpunk” and “steampunk” tags on her sites, she also claims to fall into the self-defined genre “polite murder ballads”, and this is probably closer to the truth than anything. In much the same way that Regina Spektor can make the most melancholy story melodious, you will find yourself tapping and humming along to some of these Grimm-like tales.

Law does work for theaters, is a member of a Steampunk storytelling space pirate band (yes, you read that right), and composes children’s books, so it’s nice that she has made time for the studio, as this is her second EP (the first – Rogue’s Gallery – was released in 2011). Law is obviously multi-talented, and this album is a testament to the many influences and abilities of this fine, young artist.

The Littlest Libertine opens with “I’ve Got Something On You”, a taste of things to come as Law demonstrates her flair for musical theater. Law adopts the role of a female St. Nick, chalking up the naughties on her list as she goes. Traditional European music techniques run rampant in this catchy tune done in 3/4 time. The title track follows, bouncing between a medieval-sounding ballad and a folksy chorus. Law is quirky throughout, but these tracks are contagious. “Bedrock” is a perfect example: a harmony-laden sweet and springy take on the Lil Wayne hit. Already, we find ourselves halfway through this album.

Potentially the only critique of The Littlest Libertine is that it’s too short, but these six tracks are packed with emotions, surprise and wit. This is just under twenty minutes of music that is seriously worth a listen. You can name your price here.

p.s. The melody on “Jack the Re-animator” is haunting, beautiful, and awesome.

Nightshift Magazine, December 2013 – The Littlest Libertine EP

Here’s someone else with a pretty impressive voice, and who’d probably get laughed off The X-Factor for being not exactly the same as everyone else. We reviewed Jessica once before, a couple of years back and marvelled at her ability to sound like she was parachuting in from another century completely, whether that was 1940s music hall, or some 19th Century folk festival.

Similar thoughts occur with this latest collection of songs, her voice ranging alarmingly from pure, quavering sweetness to bawdy, shrill drunkenness, often within the space of a single verse. The accusatory “I’ve Got Something on You” finds her at her most strident and seemingly inebriated, taking aim at “parsons and lawyers and whorehouse employers / Nuns and policemen and pie-makers too,” with a deliciously arcane turn of phrase. The song waltzes with a carefree lack or purpose until it tips into a convenient gin house. When she re-emerges, Jessica has swayed and swooned further back in time, a pretty mandolin twinkle accompanying a light trad-folk warble that has precisely zero connection with the evils of the modern world.

The highlight here though is the music hall-style “School for Lost Souls”, where Jessica explores her entire range of vocal styles with a natural fluency that suggests she doesn’t have to try too hard to hit notes many singers would need a lifetime of tuition to get anywhere near.

Ocelot Magazine, November 2013 – The Littlest Libertine EP

3/5

New from Oxford’s very own folk Piaf and one of the people behind the batty Mechanisms (see last month) this is a collection of intriguing folk songs, packed with expressive lyrics, strange rhythms and creative instrumentation. The slightly off-kilter vocals add to the charm, but musically this is a beautiful and interesting record, although you can’t quite ever put your finger on why you love it. It leaves you with the sensation that the ideal place to listen to this would be round a camp fire on a still midsummer night, drinking cider and smoking rollies.

Nightshift Magazine, May 2012: Rogue’s Gallery EP

Of course they didn’t have things like synthesizers or house music in the 1940s, which is where Jessica Law’s demo seems to have parachuted in from. Parachute silk being something that crops up in a list of items you can buy from the black marketer subject of her first song, ‘The Spiv’. It’s a light-footed waltz though old-time folk music with arcane language to match – when was the last time you heard “counterfeit britches” mentioned in song?

Not that Jessica is completely stuck in the past musically – across six songs here she utilizes instruments as diverse as mandolin, squeezebox, harmonica and heavily distorted electric guitar, the latter adding some contemporary dirt to songs like ‘The Innocent’ and ‘The Narcissist’. The former is belted out with a cheesy grin and you can almost imagine Jessica dressed as a wartime washwoman as she sings under a West End spotlight. The song titles too – to the above you can add ‘The Sellout’ and ‘The Outlaw’ –suggest set piece numbers from some character musical and she has the wonderfully clipped tones of a trained stage singer.

For all its showy nature there’s some heart and soul to the songs; it’s not all glitz and footlights self-awareness. Occasionally Jessica reminds us of Kathryn Williams, at others Sally Timms, while demo highlight ‘The Sellout’ could be an old wartime popular hit filtered through a trippy fog and crackle of passing decades. And now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to have powdered egg for tea.

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