Halifax’s Jessie Brown released her newest full-length studio album September 29 and it’s packed to the brim with soul. In Keeping Appearances, Brown’s three-piece group mix rock, fuzz, funk, contemporary and doom together and envelop it in a thick layer of soulful energy that holds steady throughout.
Perhaps coining the term “doom soul,” a darker take on alternative soul, Brown manages to mix these very contrasting genres to create her own unique and captivating sound. It’s deep, it’s heavy, it’s fuzzy, it’s groovy, it’s energetic and, most of all, it’s filled with emotion.
“Because I was picking myself back up during the writing of this record, I was listening to things that either made me feel like a warrior or forced me to deal with myself,” says Brown on the album’s influences. Inspired by bands and artists ranging from Pantera and Black Sabbath to Aretha Franklin and even Kimbra, she mixes the sounds of such widely varying genres, appealing to an extremely large audience and bringing us on a journey.
The album starts off with the original doom soul sound in Debt (We Ain’t Got No Money), Ghost and Keeping Appearances. These give the listener a taste of the trio’s brand new take on a time-tested genre. By the end of track 3, you’ll find the music both hitting you deep within your core while also making you yell and maybe even mosh.
From there, the pace slows down to a more classic soulful sound with Someone Else. Reminiscent of Alicia Keys, this track is simultaneously strong and soft, and projects an energy that listeners can easily grab onto and feel for themselves.
Setting itself apart from the rest of the album by adding a dash of funk to the mix is Regret. This song is undoubtedly the most unique out of the album’s 10 tracks. The warrior sentiment is projected clearly through the vocals but the baseline just makes you want to move your hips.
Bringing the pace back up, Voyeur punches in as the heaviest track on the album. It’s bouncing beat calls the Claypool Lennon Delirium to mind, but with a deeper feel. The fuzzy, droning guitar and heavy drumbeat are where we really hear the doom influence, cutting back a bit on the pure soulful energy of the album. The middle of the album is a perfect place for this song; it’s something to build up to and also something to wind down from. It’s strong, catchy and loud.
In Stepped Out and Undertown, Brown’s Aretha Franklin influence is made perfectly clear and there are even hints of Janis Joplin. These tracks take on a more rock-inspired (or even blues-inspired) sound. To close out the album, That’s What Happens and A Thank you slow the pace back down again. And what better way to end a soul album than with a soulful and emotional piano ballad? After feeling the fight and the power projected through Brown’s voice throughout the album, A Thank You lulls us back to sleep after a fight well fought.
Keeping Appearance is full of energy. It’s soul for both new and old lovers of the genre. It’s emotional. But overall, it’s certainly original.
Following an October 13 show in Montreal and an October 14 show in Toronto, you can catch Jessie Brown at Gus’ Pub in Halifax on October 28.