Darren Jessee is no stranger to the unusual twists and turns that life often places in our path. From his time as co-founder and drummer for alt-pop icons Ben Folds Five to his more recent work alongside artists like Hiss Golden Messenger, Sharon Van Etten and The War on Drugs – and now music under his own name — he’s been in a position to see how the various musical landscapes have shifted radically over the last 30 years. And through it all, he’s always been fascinated with exploring the quieter moments of our life, those which often receive little acclaim but that shape us in ways we can’t even begin to understand.
After working through different collaborations and within the framework of a handful of bands, he finally released his debut record, The Jane, Room 217, in 2018, developing a sound that reveled in tender piano lines, acoustic revelation and the orchestration of impressionistic strings. Lyrically, he touched upon familiar themes of love, regret, romance and anxiety – his words offered in subtle poetics. The arrangements were clever and playful, though they still possessed an echoing resonance and uncompromising spirit. He saw the world, with all its ugliness and beauty, and simply conveyed the measure of his own experiences.
On his forthcoming album, Remover, which is due out Oct. 16 via Bar None, he continues this lyrical directness, further digging into the emotional inquisitiveness that so pervaded his previous records. The acoustic strolls, the piano-led wistfulness and the uncommon observances are all present and accounted for, though they’re refined to such a degree that this collection seems lightyears ahead of his past work.
On recent single, “Along the Outskirts”, he builds a folk-pop cathedral, full of grand rhythmic lines and towering melodies. The song is impressive in its complicated maneuverings, but also because of its innate emotional impact. Jessee has always found ways to capture the astonishing light of ordinary moments but here it seems especially revelatory as he rambles through this cascade of folk-pop euphoria, taking bits and pieces from musicians like Mickey Newbury and Guy Clark and molding them into a sound that stands equally among those musical antecedents.
The accompanying lyric video further highlights this explorative dig into a microcosm of experience and emotion. We watch as the view slowly pans out from a single point within a city, finally stopping once the entire skyline is revealed, and we are aware that everything is connected. Jessee has made it clear that even something as simple as a single point in time can hold enormous relevance in our lives, if we can just slow down and recognize it.