The Jezabels will more than likely rule the rest of 2011, at least. In four days, their debut album Prisoner will drop like an atom bomb and many a set of ears will never be the same. They won’t just be antipodean ones, either. The Sydney fourpiece have spent the better part of the last few years looping the globe and winning over fans from London (they play XOYO tomorrow) to Toronto. For an independent band who still refuse to sign with anyone and micromanage everything from their press to their artwork, Prisoner is a remarkable achievement. It caps off the tremendous work this group put in with their last three EPs, all of which have stylistically shifted to get us to this point. Most importantly, it’s just fucking unbelievable.
I could honestly gush about Hayley Mary’s voice all day, and by the weekend, I’m sure a lot of other people will be. It’s a wonderful, full-bodied thing capable of all kinds of spine-tingling feats, particularly in the upper octaves. Swooping between her regular and spacewoman registers is one of Mary’s trademarks, which she’s been working on with increasing success over the years. It should be noted that doing this kind of thing requires a huge level of professionalism and more vitally, fearlessness. There is nothing Hayley does vocally on this album that could remotely be considered ‘safe’, probably one of the many reasons her band keep refusing to sign with a label. It’s a rare thing that just can’t be boxed in, full of drama and spiked with feeling that evokes Kate Bush and Dolores O’Riordan in equal measure, yet sounds completely her own. ‘Horsehead’ is a fantastic example of what I’m talking about; with the swelling brood of the verse, the listener has no idea what’s coming at chorus time. It’s a little bit berserk and completely wonderful. If only all artists poured that much heart into their work.
But The Jezabels aren’t only remarkable for their vocalist; they’ve got chops to burn. ‘Horsehead’, in addition to featuring what appears to be the world’s most resonant floor tom sways and bucks about the beat, playing with time and never lands on ‘one’. The interplay of these elements, particularly drummer Nik Kaloper who flies around Heather Shannon’s chiming minor chords like a man with at least four extra limbs, all contribute to the uniquely enchanting Jezabels sound. It doesn’t come off like anything else because there really isn’t anything else like it – trading ideas that typically only crop up in metal or jazz and somehow making them work. My judge of a really great song isn’t one that makes me want to sing it (admittedly, in this case I definitely couldn’t) but one that sends me towards the kit or the piano to figure out how to play it. And that’s precisely what ‘Horsehead’ does. I’m hooked and I guarantee you will be, too.
The Jezabels – ‘Horsehead’
Buy this record on Friday.