Review Summary: Life on Earth is a genuine work that shows great promise for its creator.
Jesy Fortino isn’t the type that likes to be rushed. Her bare, minimalist compositions are lengthy and drawn-out, every inch of emotion squeezed out from them until completely dried. Life on Earth is thus not one for the impatient: a commitment to the album’s sixty-odd minutes has to be made to gain any real emotional connection with it, or Life on Earth will just breeze by, unnoticed.
This isn’t because Life on Earth is unremarkable; instead, it’s just depressingly bare. The album’s basic sound is stark and desolate, finding Fortino alone with her acoustic and a laundry list of haunting, slow-burning melodies. Her husky, dramatic vocals are anything but light, and her timbre mixed with her sad, often yearning lyrics give Life on Earth a darker feel, and help accent the album’s melancholic disposition.
There’s rarely a song here that isn’t beautiful: Fortino’s sense for gorgeous melodies, both instrumentally and vocally, simply shines throughout. Of the bunch, the four-minute “Dreamer” is the most obvious example of this talent, beginning with Fortino letting a repeating guitar figure loom over her rising and lowering vocals. A perfect balance of the two is struck until the ending, where Fortino’s vocals reach a fever point, belting out with unforeseen passion, rising all-of-the-sudden and catching the listener surprised and, after a couple dozen listens, astonished.
It seems ludicrous to be surprised at something on Life on Earth---after three tracks, you should be aware that there’s a pretty straightforward sound here---but Fortino thankfully doesn’t let Life on Earth meander into a bland nothingness. “Twilight Property” and “Young God” break the mold, allowing some variation through a variety of instruments and vocal effects. The latter is the most impressive, as softly droning guitars and keyboards leave Fortino’s voice as the sole provider of any sort of melody, which she conveniently does away with here. Her haunting wails will go straight to the spine.
Life on Earth’s cover depicts what appears to be mid-afternoon on a cloudy day, which is a rather inopportune time to listen to this. Instead, Life on Earth seems primed for the shadow of night---something this somber would be uncomfortable to play anytime else. Yet, while Life on Earth is indeed somber, it’s also hopeful, in that it gives the listener solace, in that it gives the listener something to embrace within their own loneliness. Life on Earth isn’t easy to come to terms with, but the effort will pay off handsomely.