Jessica Lea Mayfield is a singer-songwriter from Kent, Ohio. At just 24 years of age, she’s already released three very good albums including her brand new one Make My Head Sing…, which just came out last week. Her previous two albums were very heavy on alt-folk/Americana/country, and her 2011 sophomore record Tell Me ended up being my 12th favorite non-Canadian album of the year. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that I underrated that album and I probably should have had it at about #6. It’s also worth mentioning that there are at least four albums which placed better than Tell Me that I never listen to anymore.
The first album (2008’s With Blasphemy So Heartfelt) is really minimal and her folk and country roots, which are quite deep, show. The second one incorporated some rock aesthetics and was more of a full-band effort, but her part was still mostly acoustic guitar. Here is what I wrote about the amazing song “Somewhere in Your Heart”, from that album.
This new album goes in a completely different and wonderful direction. There are elements of punk, sludge-rock, 1990s-style grunge, and lots more. She didn’t abandon the folk sound altogether; it’s still there, but it’s buried deep in the genetic makeup of this album. This record is broad and bold and has big, sharp teeth. Big, sharp, cuddly teeth. Less jangle, more fuzz.
If you don’t know the Jessica Lea Mayfield backstory, it’s worth hearing. The short version of it goes like this… She grew up in a tour bus. By the time she was eight, she was performing in her parents’ bluegrass band. She and her older brother (the Grammy-nominated David Mayfield)) were home-schooled in the tour bus because her parents “didn’t want school to get in the way of education”. When she was 11, she asked David to teach her to play the guitar, which she picked up quickly. By 15, she was writing her own songs, and by 18, her bedroom tapes made it into the right hands and she had a record contract. Her first album came out when she was just 19.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to see Jessica Lea Mayfield and David Mayfield play together last year on their “sibling rivalry tour”. It was amazing.
Anyway, this new record really took me by surprise, and I spent the better part of this morning listening to it three times in a row. It’s a fantastic record that I expect to place high in my year-end list. Today’s song is the “hit single” from the album, and I suspect it will move a lot of copies. This is that song:
“I Wanna Love You” by Jessica Lea Mayfield
I absolutely adore what’s going on there at the beginning. The “Don’t Fear The Reaper”-esque guitar riff coming through the left channel only. After a couple of bars, the vocals come in, but for the first verse, they’re balanced about 95% in the right channel. And just then, that’s the only thing going on in the right channel. That trip through the stereo field makes for a weird, gooey head space. And I absolutely love that kind of thing. It’s one of the things that I love so much about Stereolab.
Jessica Lea Mayfield has spoken a lot in the past about being, more or less, the prey of stalkers. She says that she had to write an album of songs (Tell Me) about being mean to boys who fall in love with her. She is, by the way, married. This song, it seems, is written from the perspective of a stalker. A stalker who has enough self-awareness to know how unacceptable his behaviour is, but not enough self-awareness to stop lurking around in the bushes being a creep.
I have things I wanna do
I wanna do these things with you
I have visions in my brain
That are different from the truth.
I’m standing outside your house
Watching What you do
I see you’ve opened the mail
I have sent to you
I’m insane. I wanna love you
You’re gonna find this out
It’s really quite scary, actually. The “you’re gonna find this out” bit.
Setting aside the boiling bunny plot of the song, it’s a really fantastic pop song that deserves multiple listens.
If Jessica Lea Mayfield comes to your town on her current tour, make sure you go see her band. I really think that sooner than later, she’ll be too big to play small venues. So you should see her in a dingy club while you still can.
Join Daytrotter, and get this brilliant session of hers from 2011.
Check out the official video, which amplifies the creepiness of the stalking activity.
Above all else, buy the new album in your choice of format. If you don’t enjoy the album, I’ll come over to your house and clean your attic.