Jill Lorean - This Rock (Monohands Records)

Jill Lorean – This Rock (Monohands Records)

This Rock is the debut album from Jill Lorean, the Glasgow-based trio who first appeared in 2020 with the rather splendid Not Your First EP. The band consists of drummer Peter Kelly, Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan and fronted by Jill O’Sullivan, formerly of the criminally underrated Sparrow and the Workshop, and they have just made one of the freshest and original sounding albums of the year.

By all accounts (oh alright then, the press release), this was deliberate. O’Sullivan has spoken about this being effectively an anti-Alexa record: instead of being an album, or even a track to fit a particular mood, so often within the same track different elements are playing against each other. (Not tending to use it, I don’t know if Alexa would understand ‘play me something that seems to have lots of elements in it that might not work in lesser hands but really comes together‘.) On ‘Dog-Eared Rose’ for example, there’s O’Sullivan’s folky, ethereal vocal floating over what is post-punk guitars meshing with classic rock drumming. And they pull it off between the three of them.

This is quite probably because O’Sullivan’s distinctive voice is the anchor for much of this record. It’s reminiscent of the likes of Sandy Denny or Vashti Bunyan, yet while their music seemed like a natural accompaniment, this feels more radical, with the fire of a Patti Smith or PJ Harvey. Of course, to do all this, you do actually need to produce decent songs, and they succeed at this brilliantly. There is a theme of nature – both the natural world and human that runs through the album. It opens with the edgy ‘The Breaking Down‘ which feels like it might build up to a massive crescendo – the fact that it ends rather suddenly seems to make it all the more unsettling. It’s amplified all the more with some of the most effective violin playing I have heard this side of Warren Ellis. There’s the beguiling ‘Kneading‘ with its query: ‘What about the girl who looked like Judy Garland?’ It closes with the heartbreaking, and very timely ‘Anti-War Lullaby‘, inspired by O’Sullivan trying to explain to her five year old daughter what war is.

I don’t buy into the argument that there’s no more decent music being made any more. Sometimes you have to search for it – take this as a pointer and a record that needs to be listened to properly, from start to finish and not just a handpicked Alexa pick or a playlist but something that stands strong by itself.

Glorious, unsettling and startling.


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