Call it a garage band. Call it dance punk. Whatever you call it, artist J. Graves released their first full-length album September 13, 2019 and we cannot get enough of this raw female energy!
Many have likened her to Sleater-Kinney and Karen O of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs thanks to her strong, crystal clear vocals and tough girl with a guitar persona (Vortex Magazine, 2019), but singer/songwriter Jessa Graves brings her own brand of heat with quiet intensity resounding in every track. Backed by staccato spurts of bass from Barret Stolte and the drums of Aaron MacDonald, her voice rings loud and clear to denounce past lovers and the thoughts that keep you up all night.
The album opens with Graves crooning to keep quiet, keep it cool but that’s the last thing you want to do with the steady pluck of the bass gearing up to a classic punk collision of drums and guitar in the chorus as she reaches the end of the verse with the lyric, “it’s tearing me apart.” This is followed by her instructions to “keep your heart low/I don’t know what to believe/keep your heart low/I don’t know what you’re doing to me,” punctuated by the spasmodic bursts of drum and bass. It is a perfect rendition of how intense and jolting a first love can be. The opening track gives listeners a first glance at what they can expect from the rest of the album – it’s a window into the fervent chapters of an artist’s life, a snapshot and tribute to a past life given as she moves onto the next part of her story.
J. Graves has been composing her own songs since her humble beginnings in a high school band dubbed HelloKopter, which later became the name of her solo project. When the group made the decision to disband in 2013, Graves was devastated and put down her guitar for what seemed like forever. After a dark period of detaching from music and what felt like the truest expression of herself, her future took a turn when she faced a series of health problems. The x-ray photo featured on Marathon’s cover is one taken in a time when she fought to return to a healthy state of mind and body. However, her spirit could not keep quiet for long, and after four years, the three members of J. Graves came together to record their first full-length record.
Wondering what’s so special about this record that will make you sit up and say, wow, that’s good? The trio uses pared down instrumentals to give listeners a chance to hone in on the sheer passion of the queer vocalists’ pipes and heartfelt lyrics. Within the span of a chorus, Graves’ vocals range from calm and collected notes to a fierce shout that will make you want to belt the words out with her. The guitar and bass that powerhouse alongside her do their part in causing that subconscious tap of your foot or the drumming of your fingertips on the steering wheel with righteous purpose.
“Shh,” she giggles in this YouTube clip from Story Tellers Telling Stories. “It’s like we were never here.” But we’re finding it hard to forget the naked talent this group shows right out of the gate. We can’t wait to see what J. Graves has in store for the future.