Album Reviews

Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature – “a world builder in her own right”

The New York songwriter arrives with her highly-anticipated sophomore album.

“All I want to do is fall apart/In the arms of someone entirely strange to me,” sings Cassandra Jenkins on Crosshairs, one of the many fine moments on An Overview on Phenomenal Nature.

During the aforementioned song, the New York artist parts with another pearl of wisdom, “What is it you’re looking for/In the looking glass.”

It’s the kind of statement many of us have probably been thinking at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a lot of us, where there has been more time to burn than usual, rumination and life-editing have been prevalent facets during lockdown and if anything, Jenkins captures this like no other on An Overview on Phenomenal Nature.

With the help of producer, Josh Kaufman (Bonny Light Horseman, Muzz, and Craig Finn whom Jenkins has also played alongside), her songwriting truly evolves, crystallising a drifter-like persona with sparkling snapshots of everyday life, experiencing change and how to deal with these circumstances.

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“Nothing ever really disappears,” said Jenkins in the lead-up to the album release. “It just changes shape.”

She is a world builder in her own right. The type of songwriter that could make going to the corner shop for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread sound cataclysmic.

The story unravels with Michelangelo – a breezy folk number that fizzes with warm tones and elegant strings.

Cassandra Jenkins - An Overview on Phenomenal Nature

New Bikini follows with lush snaking brass and a prickly rhythm section that sits behind Jenkins’ storytelling of otherworldly escapism. “The water cures everything,” she whispers in a story that the likes of Finn has told over the years. However, Jenkins weaves her yarns with a fragile tenderness. They unfurl slowly, like gentle waves lapping up to shore.

Which leads into album highlight, Hard Drive. Not many songs will touch this in 2021. A spacious, feverish spoken-word tale that Kaufman has captured beautifully to tape alongside Jenkins who delivers it with grandeur. “In this life/The mind is just a hard drive”.

It creates the kind of image where one looks out to the sun-kissed ocean completely losing themselves in it. Both in lyric and sound Hard Drive is so dynamic that Jenkins probably won’t write another song as good. And that’s okay.

We go back to Norway on the ambient chamber-pop dalliance of Ambiguous Norway – a gorgeous hush tone of soft saxophones and subtle twangy guitars.

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The closing instrumental in The Ramble is a meditative sun-dappled post-life sprawl with saxophones that drift from the speakers and pinprick the air. A song shimmering in cinematic value bringing the curtain down on a memorable journey.

So far removed from Jenkins‘ previous album, Play Till You Win, Kaufman‘s mastery from behind the studio glass has unlocked a new world for her to explore and thrive in.

It’s not just a nice record. By possessing a spiritual depth far beyond the surface, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature will speak to many and not the few.

Along with The Weather Station’s Ignorance, the pair of albums subconsciously operate as brilliant back-to-back companion piece for the listener. Vital, forward-thinking slabs of new music that have the ability to crossover and reach a wider audience.

On the back of An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, Cassandra Jenkins will be an artist that will get the tongues wagging not just for the remainder of 2021, but beyond, too.

An Overview on Phenomenal Nature is out now via Ba Da Bing! Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

4 replies on “Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature – “a world builder in her own right””

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