Nick Levine AKA Jodi, formerly of the band Pinegrove, stunned us earlier this year with the beautiful single ‘Softy’. Whilst we were waiting for our computer to be fixed(!) the eagerly anticipated album followed last month. Now is our opportunity to spill the beans on Jodi’s debut album ‘Blue Heron’.
The subtle guitar sway of “Power” opens the album. The song revels in minimalism with Jodi at various points accompanied only by the guitar or only by drums. It’s rhythmically playful, with short staccato muted chugs and wide rangey drawn out notes. Melodically it’s beautiful, recalling Bonnie Prince Billy and Mount Eerie. These are perhaps the most frequent reference points throughout ‘Blue Heron’.
“Go Slowly” sounds instantly familiar.
The ear wormy melody is absolutely gorgeous. It’s one of those ballads that simply stops you in your tracks. The pedal steel towards the end is so plaintive it’s heartbreaking.
“Get Back” (not a Beatles cover) is more upbeat, at least in the verses. The drums and sweet lap steel evoke Harvest era Neil Young. Jodi’s voice is never lost in the mix, the instrumentation never goes overboard. The approach to song structure shares similarities with Frankie Cosmos, ranging from upbeat, simple melodies to washy half time crescendos.
Jodi gently plays with rhythm on the more intricate “Hawks”. The muted guitar lines are taut, allowing for a delightful release when the piano and pedal steel swoop in.
‘Blue Heron’ is clearly a labour of love.
“Slug Night” is the softest track to this point, with Jodi just accompanied, for the most part, by a lightly strummed guitar. The vocal melody is almost Brian Wilson-esque and really requires little else.
This ensures the drum intro of “Buddy” hits harder. Again, there’s a Neil Young bent to this with the simple plodding drums and light staccato chords. There’s also an almighty gnarled guitar fuzz late on that is utterly cathartic, before the song abruptly closes.
The phenomenal “Softy” follows. A song so good we had to feature it on its own earlier in the year. It’s the best song Phil Elverum never wrote. “Water” is no less beautiful. At just 1 minute 18 seconds, it suddenly bursts into life around the half way mark, like a less fiddly “Words (Between The Lines Of Age)” that ends all too soon.
The instrumental “River Rocks” is a neatly timed counterpoint.
Perhaps it’s an idea where the words just never seemed to come out.
Whilst the album is very much all about subtlety and quiet, the spaces in-between being just as important as the notes played, it’s all very carefully considered. A stark and minimal track will be followed by something spikier, with that chased by something more dramatic. The closer and title track flows along a dreamy guitar line and electronic drums. The guitars double up beautifully as the drums shift to acoustic. Jodi, here, really evokes Will Oldham and that is never ever a bad thing.
‘Blue Heron’ is a quietly staggering, introspective debut solo album. Perhaps nothing new but what it does it does so well.
You may enjoy this if you like: Mount Eerie, Bonnie Prince Billy, Neil Young, Jason Molina
‘Blue Heron’ is out now via Sooper Records