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JACKIE LYNN Jaqueline gets 8/10


Jackie Lynn
Jaqueline
Drag City

8/10

Just in time for our current pandemic, Haley Fohr’s masked Jackie Lynn comes galloping into town some four years after her debut mini-album. But this time she comes with a more committed effort as a proper band, comprised of Fohr and the wonderful Bitchin Bajas. The Bajas are masters of electronic drones, textures and moods and also excellent collaborators, having previously worked with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Joshua Abraham’s Natural Information Society. On Jacqueline, both parties are provided with an opportunity to slum it up a bit with the Jackie Lynn project, but the results are a refreshing synergy across the poppy-yet-complex numbers as well as the spacier, contemplative tracks, and even an unexpected excursion to the dancefloor as well.

The backstory of Jackie Lynn goes something like: girl from a small country town meets a city slicker on a Greyhound bus, they go into the cocaine business together and make their fortune,  but after settling some old scores she gets into a bit of trouble and goes on the run. On Jacqueline, Jackie is driving a truck across the country, and Fohr continues to paint the songs impressionistically, if not exactly sticking to a linear, literal tale of her exploits. Songs conjure scenes or small vignettes of interactions that are closely tied to the music. Compared to Fohr’s more sophisticated compositions as Circuit Des Yeux, her main recording persona, Jackie Lynn is ostensibly a pop project but with a complexity and depth underneath the bonnet, making the music enjoyable on multiple levels. Both projects feature Fohr’s incredibly low contralto singing, a love-it-or-hate-it voice for many, but her talents are undeniable.

Kicking things off, Casino Queen is a pacey new wave number that stars Jackie in a casino: “Coins in the handbag/ Cape is a freak flag”. Shugar Water is a more upbeat vamp featuring Fohr belting out a rousing chorus and featuring some nice guitar chops throughout.

Both of these tracks and Dream St. were given Fohr’s typical no budget but imaginative video treatment ahead of the release. True to its name, Dream St. is a disassociated laid-back number based on a meandering bassline and slide guitar, moving along to some tinny-sounding drum machines with a clip-clop riding feel. Swelling strings kick in halfway through, taking Jackie on a cloud across a sea of stars and away from her troubles.

She dons her Short Black Dress for the next escapade, another catchy tune showcasing Fohr’s higher register singing on the chorus, but with a strangely captivating instrumental bridge that switches from Mexican brass to skulking down alleyways not hinted at during the beginning. Laminex is more in the Circuit Des Yeux vein, but where you can hear the Bajas begin to exert their hefty-yet-weightless touch on the synths and organs. These quieter tracks carry a sorrowful gravitas in contrast to the pop numbers and provide Jacqueline with a wide pallet of moods.

By the time the combo roll into Odessa, its apparent they’ve been getting high on their own supply as it’s a solid groover for the dancefloor. The core of the track is a pacey four-on-the-floor rhythm that gets those boots scooting, with an extended outro that’s ideal for an iso-boogie in your PJs in the lounge room.

Two tracks later, Diamond Glue is a return to the dancefloor, except this time things are getting positively sticky. A chorus of vocoded, sexy-sounding lyrics takes centre stage against a backdrop of some smooth 80s-style funk. This is where the (on paper) strange pairing of experimental chanteuse and ambient drone boys goes into completely unexpected places, and it sounds like they’re having an absolute ball.

Fohr and the Bitchin Bajas have made one of the more intriguing releases of 2020. Yes, the face mask is spot on killer fashion for the times, although Fohr stated in a press release with Jacqueline that the mask will be retired after this album.

Mask aside, the combination of mysterious back story, countrified pop music and an undertow of complexity makes the pairing of Fohr and the Bajas a properly realised, new look and feel, total Jackie Lynn adventure. Hopefully, they’ll unite again without the masks, but for now: keep the masks on and bop to the tunes.

PAUL DOUGHTY

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