Jess Abbott is a busy gal. Not necessarily busy to the point of breaking, but busy in the sense that she always has something creative to do. Having Now, Now to think about at most times, one may feel as if her solo project Tancred doesn’t get much slack from her able-bodied schedule, which happens to also include running indie record label Cardinal White Records. Well, one shouldn’t make such presumptuous thoughts because Tancred, the engrossed songstress’ second full-length solo record, is quite a welcome gem to the Topshelf Records family.
The record gets underway with its debut single “The Ring”, which is a wonderfully upbeat track in the vein of late ’80s pop. The track is laden with quasi-existential lyrics of a distant love which feel, at times, all too real: “I can still remember how you kiss/I can’t believe this is it.” “Creases” has some of my favorite lyrical work on the entire record, making Abbott come across as the female version of Into It. Over It. in a few ways: “If I’m laying this map out for you/Could you make sure to fold it up right?” “Radio” offers a lo-fi ‘lude of sorts while the next track “Twelve” wakes the listener up with a deep, ambient, almost haunting backbone.
Halfway through the record is “Indiana”, which is Abbott’s devoted offering to her emo ancestors: “Now you treat me like something caught between your teeth…how did I become so obsolete?” Following that is “Hard to Leave”, the record’s low point in my ears. While the track as a whole is well fleshed out, there’s not much connection to Abbott’s voice and the driving tone we’re offered. I’m expecting her to shout out halfway through the track to accompany the heavy riffs and snare smacks, but she stays the same as she began. The record closes with a beautiful piano ballad titled “The Worst Kind”, which shows Abbott listing off some insecurities which may or may not even be her own. That’s for us to decide.
One thing the record does that stands out to my ever-ticking mind is that a few songs end so abruptly that I barely have time to recount what I’ve heard. On paper, it looks like a minuscule aspect, but as a listener, it’s something that I’ve deemed rather trying. To me, the best thing about Tancred is that eight of the 11 tracks clock in at less than three minutes, making a roughly 28-minute album, which is ideal for a quick burst of creativity, study breaks, or sing-alongs. What we’re given with that is 11 tracks of self-identification and clarity, something everyone should come to terms with.
Being more of a Now, Now fan, this record is my personal first taste of Tancred. I didn’t know what to expect going into it except that I knew how talented Abbott was from the get-go, especially having seen her flagship band perform live last year. I’d written a mini-review of Now, Now’s Threads (over at my blog) as it was one of my top releases of 2012; in it, I mentioned that “it’s really a feat of excellence that three people can create something so wonderful.” Tancred has shown me that one person can do just the same.
Tancred is available now via Topshelf Records.