Album Review: Jess Locke – Don’t Ask Yourself Why

Jess Locke, the Melbourne based artist has created something special here with her new album Don’t Ask Yourself Why.

This album combines an artistic level of musical storytelling, that wouldn’t be out of place in medieval times, with a 21st century musical energy and finesse. It has essence of Nirvana’s grunge and Radiohead’s melancholy, with a tablespoon of Marceline the Vampire Queen while at the same time having a similar direct, honest, core to Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple.

It is an emphatic mix which is difficult to put into a box. Perhaps that’s the point of it, it’s unboxed and open. A glimpse through the flowing curtains in front of Jess Locke’s mind.

The album cover, painted by Locke herself, opens a gateway to the sensibilities of the album. A tale of destruction and chaos giving way to beauty and the true nature of humanity.

“For this record I was a lot more open in my writing process than in the past in terms of genre. I tried not to write any particular kind of song and instead just see what kind of style the song wanted to be. I found it to be an extremely productive way to write. I definitely came up with some pretty weird, and just bad, stuff that didn’t make it onto the record, but it’s the reason all of the songs that did make it are so stylistically diverse.” Jess Locke

It is an album that I almost don’t want to write about, because you have to just listen to it without any preconceptions and allow yourself to get sucked under with Jess and her bandmates, James Morris and Chris Rawsthorne.

Working with producer, Rob Muinos (Saskwatch, Julia Jacklin). Jess Locke and co. created the album in a tiny studio, at the back of a guitar shop in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. Before it was mastered in the UK, by John Davis (Lana Del Rey, The Killers, Led Zeppelin) at Metropolis Studios.

The beauty of it is that you feel truly transported. This isn’t an album made to get likes or to trend. This is an album that is designed for no purpose other than to express a thought process that can’t be conveyed or understood through anything but music. An old school style album created for the listener, not for the ‘public’.

The title track has a fun dreamy vibe, whilst nestling in some real issues. Locke herself said of the track “I mean the phrase ironically”. We can let go, we can get out of hand, we can be happy or sad or angry, it is all ok and part of being human.

‘Blowfish’ meanders through a mix of the reality of human relationships and animal synonyms. Slow and ruminative it lulls you through to the next track ‘Dead and Gone’, the single and video of which were released in January 2021.

The seventh song on the record, ‘Winner’, is a poignant sing-along. It is almost as if there is a medieval church choir and Locke is on the podium educating us, her disciples, on moral virtues. Turn it up loud and you’ll feel something.

‘Late Bloomer’ is a kind cuddle. It takes any anxiety you might have ever had about yourself and turns it into fertilizer. Jess Locke is ready with her watering can and her friend – the sun, to ensure that you get to do everything you’ve ever wanted to. An ode to herself, maybe, her understanding resounds through the roots in the soil.

The balance of the album comes with the slightly darker, sadder moments of the musical journey. Between the eerie sorrow of ‘Dead and Gone’ and the cool scariness later on in the album, it’s a full-on emotional experience.

The final track, ‘All Things Will Change’, is a little sad. A necessary reminder that our time doing anything is fleeting. It’s a good idea to put the album on repeat so you get back to ‘Tell me I’m OK’ without any emotional mishaps.

It has that feel that you can just sit in your bedroom and draw a notebook full of doodles, of blowfish and lawnmowers creating compost over your handwritten lyrics. This doesn’t mean it isn’t deep, quite the opposite.

It is one of the deepest and best albums I have heard in the last decade. An album that we have all lived. Locke investigates the way we have all been feeling throughout the pandemic, and in our daily lives prior to that. An album five years in the making, it shows.

After the teasing release of three tracks from the album across the last nine months, ‘Don’t Ask Yourself Why’ is set for release on 26th March 2021 via. Dot Dash Recordings.

Find out more about Jess Locke on her Official Site / Bandcamp / Facebook / Instagram

Review by Jess Milner:

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