Friday, September 28, 2012

Jessie Ware. Devotion (2012).

Oh, this is good.  Some are thinking of Jessie as the new millennial Sade in the way she melds cool and sensuousness.  Solid songwriting wrapped in electronic adornment, with live guitar provided by Dave Okumu, which is very welcome.  

Not really electronica, or straight pop, or nouveau R&B, Devotion takes elements of all of those and makes something very personal from the combination.  I’m reminded of Bryan Ferry’s solo albums, in that it dwells in darkness and space, with fine details that glint from the shadows.  There are many enticing details that emerge on headphones, but it’s never messy or random.  Like Ferry, Ware works a catch phrase, such as on No to Love, and weaves atmospheric magic from its repetition.

110% is light and lovely, but not entirely representative of the album, which is pretty dark, filled as it is with a taste for deep heartbreak.


Jessie’s voice is usually chill, with just a hint of soulful aura. Unlike many singers, who oversing to the degree that it’s a relief when they pull back, JW rarely seems to flex a muscle. But when she does, as on Running, or Taking In Water, it’s a real thrill.  On Something Inside she sounds like an angel.  

Devotion has the potential of becoming a classic, it’s contemporary but not trendy.  I can imagine people putting this on 15 years from now and saying, “I still love this.”  It was announced this month that Devotion is up for the UK’s Mercury Prize.

Here’s a live version of the title track.  It’s only based on two chords, D Maj going to F# Maj with the third in the bass, but they’re a major third apart, which leaves the tonality uneasy and ambivalent (Hey, that’s the Coltrane change!).  I love the focus and precision of her band in this performance.


Much more than a great debut, it’s feels like a career making record.  It makes one ponder how she could possibly create a stronger follow-up.  This album is so chic, I feel like I should dress up to listen to it.  Could be album of the year for me.