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Music for kids and their adults
Acoustic, Americana and Roots
Exploring the musical legacy of Prince and beyond
Thursday, September 16, 2021, 10:00 AM, Presale
Friday, September 17, 2021, 10:00 AM, Public on sale
Doors 7 p.m. | Music 8 p.m. | 18+
Effective immediately, all concerts and events at First Avenue and associated venues will require either proof of a full series of COVID-19 vaccination, or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the prior 72 hours. More info HERE.
On her 2018 debut album Lush, seventeen-year-old Lindsey Jordan sang “I’m in full control / I’m not lost / Even when it’s love / Even when it’s not”. Her natural ability to be many things at once resonated with a lot of people. The contradiction of confidence and vulnerability, power and delicacy, had the impact of a wrecking ball when put to tape. It was an impressive and unequivocal career-making moment for Jordan.
On Valentine, her sophomore album out November 5 on Matador, Lindsey solidifies and defines this trajectory in a blaze of glory. In 10 songs, written over 2019-2020 by Jordan alone, we are taken on an adrenalizing odyssey of genuine originality in an era in which "indie" music has been reduced to gentle, homogenous pop composed mostly by ghost writers. Made with careful precision, Valentine shows an artist who has chosen to take her time. The reference points are broad and psychically stirring, while the lyrics build masterfully on the foundation set by Jordan’s first record to deliver a deeper understanding of heartbreak.
On “Ben Franklin”, the second single of the album, Jordan sings “Moved on, but nothing feels true / Sometimes I hate her just for not being you / Post rehab I’ve been feeling so small / I miss your attention, I wish I could call”. It’s here that she mourns a lost love, conceding the true nature of a fleeting romantic tie-up and ultimately, referencing a stay in a recovery facility in Arizona. This 45-day interlude followed issues stemming from a young life colliding with sudden fame and success. Since she was not allowed to bring her instruments or recording equipment, Jordan began tabulating the new album arrangements on paper solely out of memory and imagination. It was after this choice to take radical action that Valentine really took its unique shape.
Jordan took her newfound sense of clarity and calm to Durham, North Carolina, along with the bones of a new album. Here she worked with Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee). For all the album’s vastness and gravity, it was in this small home studio that Jordan and Cook chipped away over the winter of early 2021 at co-producing a dynamic collection of genre-melding new songs, finishing it triumphantly in the spring. They were assisted by longtime bandmates Ray Brown and Alex Bass, as well as engineer Alex Farrar, with a live string section added later at Spacebomb Studios in Richmond.
Leaning more heavily into samples and synthesizers, the album hinges on a handful of remarkably untraditional pop songs. The first few seconds of opener and title track ‘Valentine’ see whispered voice and eerie sci-fi synth erupt into a stadium-sized, endorphin-rush of a chorus that is an overwhelming statement of intent. “Ben Franklin”, “Forever (Sailing)” and “Madonna” take imaginative routes to the highest peaks of catchiness. Jordan has always sung with a depth of intensity and conviction, and the climactic pop moments on Valentine are delivered with such a tenet and a darkness and a beauty that’s noisy and guttural, taking on the singularity that usually comes from a veteran artist.
As captivating as the synth-driven songs are, it’s the more delicate moments like “Light Blue”, “c.et. al.” and “Mia” that distill the albums range and depth. “Baby blue, I’m so behind / Can’t make sense of the faces in and out of my life / Whirling above our daily routines / Both buried in problems, baby, honestly” Jordan sings on “c. et. al.” with a devastating certainty. These more ethereal, dextrously finger-picked folk songs peppered in throughout the album are nuanced in their vocal delivery and confident in their intricate arrangement. They come in like a breath of air, a moment to let the mind wander, but quickly drown the listener in their melodic alchemy and lyrical punch.
The album is rounded out radiantly by guitar-driven rock songs like “Automate”, “Glory” and “Headlock”. Reminiscent of Lush but with a marked tonal shift, Jordan again shows her prowess as a guitar player with chorus-y leads and rhythmic, wall-of-sound riffs. “Headlock” highlights this pivot with high-pitched dissonance and celestially affected lead parts – “Can’t go out I’m tethered to / Another world where we’re together / Are you lost in it too?”, she sings with grit and fatigue, building so poignantly on her sturdy foundation of out-and-out melancholy. On Valentine, we are taken 100 miles deeper into the world Jordan created with Lush, led through passageways and around dark corners, landing somewhere we never dreamed existed.
Today, in the wake of recording Valentine, Jordan is focused on trying to continue healing without slowing down. The album comes in the midst of so much growth, in the fertile soil of a harrowing bottom-out. On the heels of life-altering success, a painful breakup, and 6 weeks in treatment, Jordan appears vibrant and sharp. “Mia, don’t cry / I love you forever / But I gotta grow up now / No I can’t keep holding onto you anymore” she sings on the album closer “Mia”. She sings softly but her voice cuts through like a hacksaw. The song is lamenting a lost love, saying a somber goodbye, and it closes the door on a bitter cold season for Jordan. Leaving room for a long and storied path, Valentine is somehow a jolt and a lovebuzz all at once.
Joy Again are the kind of artists that make wiggly, amorphous, bright and starry-eyed, weird pop music with a ticklishly cynical, wry sense of humor. The kind that inspires lore and bootleg CD singles and an air of mythic mystery. Anything you’ve heard about Joy Again may or may not be true.
Arthur Shea and Sachi DiSerafino, the two twenty-two-year-old songwriters behind the project they call Joy Again, met a long time ago, way back in kindergarten. They lived five minutes away from each other in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, and played on the same baseball team when they were in the third grade. Then they weren’t friends for a long time — until they reconnected via Facebook freshman year of high school and bonded over a shared love (and hate) of music.
So Arthur and Sachi started playing music together, and then Sachi transferred to the boarding school Arthur was at, Westtown, where the pair shared a dorm room for the next two years. During that period they used to stay up ‘til the wee hours watching Breaking Bad and sleep talking to each other in that room. Joy Again’s early singles, the hazy, anxious crush songs “How You Feel” and “Looking Out For You,” came from that time.
A lot has happened since then.
After high school, Arthur and Sachi moved into a house with some friends in South Philadelphia, in order to make music all the time. Over the years, Joy Again sprinkled a smattering of infectious EPs and singles, and in spring 2018 released 30 tracks they’d recorded from 2014-2015, their senior year, which they titled Forever. Joy Again, which Sachi and Arthur refer to as more of a collective than a band, toured with Rostam at the start of 2018, and with JPEGMAFIA that summer.
Arthur and Sachi are the principal components of Joy Again. But their bandmates, bassist Blaise O'Brien, drummer Will Butera, and keyboardist Zachary Tyndall play crucial roles in song construction as well—as do their consistent collaborators including producers Caleb Laven (Frank Ocean) and Matthew Tavares (BADBADNOTGOOD). They’re all part of the gang, the sprawl that is Joy Again: “All of our friends are always welcome to have input,” Sachi says. Arthur adds, “If you wanna be part of the band you just gotta do it. You can't like, wait around and see if we're gonna tell you to do something.” Their 2019 record, a seven-song EP titled Piano, had been a long time coming, written and recorded over many different little sessions.
Arthur and Sachi have historically written and recorded their own songs separately; that’s how you get the duality of releases like 2017’s double single “Kim” + “On A Farm,” with Sachi’s grimly romantic power pop on the former and Arthur’s misty musings on the latter. Arthur says his songs sound “slushy, like a swamp or something,” and that Sachi’s sound is more like the theme for Dr. Wily’s Castle in the classic Nintendo game Mega Man.
You can fully hear that on the opening pair of songs, “Abaigh’s Song” (Sachi) + “Special Secret Medicine” (Arthur), a duo of tunes — the former an effervescent, super poppy ode to Sachi’s long-term girlfriend, the latter a mercurial, zig-zagging track that exemplifies Arthur’s kooky style — that mirror that last recording. Electronics are amped up on the new songs, like on “Country Song,” which is classic Arthur — twangy and twisty with warped vocals, singing sweetly about wasting time. “Couldn’t,” one of Sachi’s winding, dreamy tunes about love and mistakes, is deeper, more stratospheric, even, than ever.
Joy Again is a collaborative project that has served as a coming-of-age musical outlet for Sachi and Arthur to bring together their array of influences — experimental pop, indie rock, shoegaze, lo-fi, country — and a community of people around them, as they create the music that’s leading their sound to a more dynamic place. They also agree that Joy Again was once more of a straightforward rock band. But now — “It’s like, I don’t even know what the fuck it is,” Sachi says. And that’s the beauty of Joy Again. Who even knows?