Jen Turrell – One Night the Stars Began to Fall and Would Not Stop

Jen Turrell
One Night the Stars Began to Fall and Would Not Stop

I gotta fly up to Boston tonight to look for a place to live, so I’m going to make this one quick. Boston’s got a lot of history, of course, and so does Philadelphia, where I’m fairly certain Ms. Jen Turrell lived at one point in her life. I might be wrong, but I seem to remember her and the band Rabbit in Red talking about living in Philly when I saw them play in Athens a few years back. Anyhow, Ms. Turrell no longer lives up there, and even if she did, it really wouldn’t mean anything in the grander scheme of reviewing her new record, One Night the Stars Began to Fall and Would Not Stop. And that’s what this is, you see, a record review, not a travelogue, or a geography lesson, or a history of Jen Turrell’s living arrangements. Why in heavens would anyone want to read any of those?
This record is about as long as its title. These 15 songs rush by in a little over a half-hour, with most tracks wrapping up in less than two minutes a pop. And pop is just what these songs be, the sort of modest indie-pop you’d hear about on TweeNet or that would have been released by Kindercore back before they tried to go butch. These songs consist primarily of Ms. Turrell’s melodic and methodical guitar picking set to sorta-dancey mechanical beats (provided by Stewart of Boyracer, Steward, and 555 Recs fame). They don’t get too busy with the beats, though, and the album hews closer to pseudo-folksy girl-with-guitar bedroom-folk than Sukpatch / Kitty Craft-style indie-pop hip-hop. It sounds somewhat like dance remixes of Softies songs, maybe. Not all the songs use the beats; the tunes with a real-life drum kit sound like standard-issue, nice and inoffensive, jangly indie-pop. The highlights include “Meteor Shower,” a parcel of bedroom folk with e-bow until this shoegazery guitar splits the song’s head open, stitches it back up, and splits it open again; tenth song “Proposal,” which features a very pretty guitar figure and a simple yet effective dance beat; and “Dreams of Drowning,” which is what I am the World Trade Center would have sounded like if they were putting records out in 1996. Other songs are equally capable of nestling their way into your noggin, and kicking around indiscriminately for a while. It’s insidious.
Listening to One Night the Stars Began to Fall and Would Not Stop ain’t all smiles and sunshine, however. Except for the beats, everything sounds slightly muffled, like the sound you get when you plug directly into a four-track, eschewing amps, mixers, and microphones. I have no idea if this is what Ms. Turrell did, but occasionally this production does hinder what are, for the most part, eminently solid tunes. The singing’s sorta flat and buried, most of the emphasis is on the guitars, the beats generally work and aren’t a distraction, and overall this is a modest yet enjoyable little album.