Jessica Bailiff – S/T

Those who are easily depressed, beware: Jessica Bailiff’s self-titled third album may not be your cup of tea. For those who enjoy wallowing in the occasional pit of despair, however, this disc may be the perfect soundtrack. Not since Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star fame pasted together gems like So Tonight That I Might See and Among My Swan has dark, gloomy sadness sounded so good.
Album opener “Swallowed” is a reprise of an older, previously recorded track, and it sets the mood for the remainder of the album. Sparse acoustic guitar is accompanied by Bailiff’s haunting, half-whispered vocals. Snippets of words and phrases only occasionally rise about the background music before fading back into obscurity. While most of the tracks are guitar based, Bailiff is no stranger to sonic experimentation. A haunting sitar fills the spaces between Bailiff’s singing on “The Hiding Place.” Looping, staccato violin provides a hypnotic backdrop for “Big Hill,” an enchanting (though somewhat repetitive) ballad reminiscent of Dead Can Dance’s “I am Stretched on Your Grave.” The slow-motion tambourine and reverberating guitar feedback on “Disappear” will no doubt have Hope Sandoval contacting her lawyers shortly.
All nine songs on this album are very similar, and there is no break in Bailiff’s somber mood. In my opinion, that’s a good thing: when I want to wallow, I don’t want my thoughts interrupted by a rogue cheery ditty. On the other hand, the unrelenting sadness and intensity of this disc may very well drive some listeners to tear up from frustration, not sadness. Only those who appreciate the strange comfort that can be found in sad music will love this album.