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Jennifer Left

Diggory EP

[Singing Hinny Music; 2012]

By ; November 27, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Although nostalgia in itself is often charming, listeners can get strangely hostile when they’re fed up of it all. Usually it’s a simple problem of excess: of being fed too much of the same kind of reverb-soaked, ‘80s drums wielding, funny-once, joke-named solo acts. It can wear thin quickly. Before long listeners come back to reality where it would appear that no one can do or make anything new and refreshing.

What’s more welcome then, is someone who takes cues from eras passed over by all the indie kids and their Macbooks and tries to fuse it with musical traits of the present. Jennifer Left is one of those people, sourcing inspiration from the swing/rock n’ roll era of the late ‘40s/early ‘50s while also trickling in the benefits of modern instrumentation and effects. “Diggory,” the lead single from her new EP of the same name, is a perfect example. Held together by a prickly guitar riff that struts along with a staccato swing rhythm in between, the song finds a perfect middle ground between being enjoyable to listen and music you can do the Charleston to. Come the song’s final chorus the guitar breaks out its wild card and begins trembling like someone misusing a Theremin. At first it sounds a little out of context, but that’s what makes it memorable, incorporating fresh new tactics to an old style.

It’s Left herself, though, that ties it all together. Her snappy, almost sultry voice has a hidden kick to it, coated in a thin grainy film that again adds to the welcome combination of old and new. It sounds like it’s a recovered voice of the past while also sounding completely fresh, especially when the exceptionally likeable chorus comes around. On “Temptation” she plays more to the sweetly charming and almost innocuous image, cooing like Leslie Feist and making every line a little breathless. And her arrangement of the New Order song is inventive, turning it into a banjo-led folky ramble. A line like “I’ve never met any quite like you before” puts her at risk of sounding too cute, but it’s fitting for the surrounding music. The whole of the Diggory EP sounds like an attempt to re-imagine music of the past in a new way, or to combine styles that might not be easily put together.

At the end of the EP is the Banks remix of “Diggory”–courtesy of Ninja Tune–who puts the original song in an entirely new context. At first Left’s voice sounds out of place with the space-y electronics, like two genres mismatched, but it’s admirable how well it soon fuses together. Although it drifts a little aimlessly at points, the sense of momentum is enough to keep you fixated, and come the sudden stopping point, you might even find yourself wishing for more.

Between this and the other two tracks is a reworking of “Diggory,” labelled the “Alternative Diggory Pokery Version.” Instead of fusing two styles, Left falls deep into her main era of influence, slowing the tune down to a smoky shuffle. There are vinyl crackles aplenty, and again Left’s voice teeters on the edge of clipping as the guitar is turned from enthusiastic to almost depressed. In a way the energy is sucked right out of the song, but it helps to put the focus on the verses as opposed to aforementioned jaunty chorus. The original sounds like the kind of song that might get a crowd moving, whereas this alternate version would be better described as a lonely encore in a back-alley bar somewhere in rainy New York. It makes you nostalgic for a time you never knew, but with music like this, it’s just as easy to imagine the setting as it is to relive times past. Here’s hoping for more new memories of the past from Jennifer Left in the future.


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