Jen Gloeckner’s VINE is an album that dwells in the liminal region between waking and sleeping, between consciousness and the subconscious, with lyrics about wind and water, crows and nightingales, thunderstorms and rainbows. The music supports such lyrical predilections by casting an ethereal sheen over a blend of electronica, trip hop and experimental dance music. Gloeckner’s voice shifts from a throaty alto to a jewel-toned falsetto, with many stops in between, and this adds a rich texture to each track.
Gloeckner, who wrote the lyrics along with her husband John, relies heavily on metaphors to make a statement. The title track, for example, features the line “I treat you like a fine wine / but all I get is vine.” It’s a declaration that sticks in one’s mind after the song ends.
Placing an instrumental piece (“Firefly (War Dance)”) as the second track on the album is an unexpected choice, but thanks to a compelling dance beat and some looped vocals from Gloeckner, it succeeds. “Breathe” is one of several songs that boast cello contributions from Fred Lonberg-Holm; the contrast between Gloeckner’s drum/bass programming and the more organic sound of the cello is intriguing.
Contrast is the most prominent aspect of “The Last Thought,” which sounds like a swooning love song until you listen to the lyrics: “The arrows are flying /you’d think I’d be hiding / but I’m a pin cushion and a fool.” It’s a wry observation that is supported by the melancholy bass melody running through the song.
“Ginger Ale” includes descriptions of oceans, moonlight and rain, all of which are impressive in their ability to create strong images, and the music floats along like a dream which we have been invited to join. It’s also indicative of Gloeckner’s overall musical style, one that ebbs and flows but doesn’t rely on standard verse/chorus/verse song structures. While “Colors” shows off the lower range of Gloeckner’s voice quite well, pairing it with the lovely piano melody in “Prayers” never fulfills the climax that its slowly building melody implies.
The retro sound featured in “Blowing Through,” “Counting Sheep,” and “Row With the Flow” is absolutely delightful. All three songs create an atmosphere of spooky beauty that would fit perfectly in Twin Peaks. “Row With the Flow” also includes some deep, gravelly vocals from Henry Padovani (The Police, Wayne County & the Electric Charts) that are startlingly reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. Gloeckner has recently expressed an interest in providing music for movie scores; songs like these should definitely attract the attention of filmmakers.
In an interview with City Code Magazine, Jen Gloeckner stated that, “As an artist, I think the most powerful tool we can have is a huge passion for our art.” Even though Gloeckner recorded VINE in her Dubuque, Iowa bedroom, there is nothing bare bones or lo-fi about it; her passion for her art is obvious and impressive.
VINE was released on April 14 and can be purchased from JenGloeckner.com.
Less Lee Moore (@popshifter) is the Editor in Chief of Popshifter, which she founded in 2007. She also writes for Rue Morgue, Everything Is Scary, Biff Bam Pop and Modern Horrors.