The Jezabels
Prisoner


4.5
superb

Review

by Butkuiss USER (12 Reviews)
October 13th, 2011 | 29 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: No more will I look around and wonder how it all began, no more will I look around for you.

Hype is a funny thing. In today's music scene, far from helping the cause of many an up-and-coming act, the presence of hype surrounding a band, album or scene invariably raises the suspicions of nearly everyone that hears it. We begin to ask questions. Why are they pushing so hard to hype up this band? What do they have to hide? How much money is that person saying good things about the band being paid to do so? Like it or not, nowadays, we're all cynics when it comes to anything that allows for even the slightest shred of doubt. Sure, our favourite band could keep up the streak of great albums they've released over the past decade with their next one. But, in our eyes, the more near-classics they produce, the more likely they are to screw up next time. We might not want to think like this, it's just we can't help it. We've been hurt before. Hurt by dodgy band members and dubious circumstances, hurt by bands selling out, record labels cashing in, hurt by disappointment. The only music likely to be hyped up is the latest surefire big hit-here this month, gone the next. There's no room any more for art that has to grow on you, no room for music that might be a little different, just a little ambitious. Music that truly touches the soul, that truly taps into the resevoir of human emotion is too hard to come by. Why get your hopes up? You're only going to end up disappointed in the end.

Tune in to any community or indie radio station on the East Coast of Australia in the last six months, and you would've heard one name repeated ad nauseum-"The Jezabels". Live snippets showcasing layer upon layer of effected guitar and keyboard bursting out from behind dreamily crooned female vocals, interviews with band members, advertisements for live gigs. But most of all, news of the Sydney four-piece's upcoming debut LP, Prisoner. They seemed to be everywhere at once, never ceasing, never stopping for a second-constantly touted as the next big thing, Australia's best potential export in years. A band with a sound enjoyable, emotive, and fresh. Of course, with this towering wall of hype comes all the usual questions. Our in-bred defences, our wall of cynicism and doubt comes back in to play front and center. "There's no way they're as good as they say." "Anyone that needs to push a band this hard is obviously getting something out of it." "Please, do they actually expect me to fall for that crock? It's obvious this band are nothing special." For all intents and purposes, The Jezabels are just this month's version of The Media's Next Big Thing, doomed to be forgotten a year from now, a mere sidenote in the musical history of Australia. Except for one crucial difference.

The Jezabels are GOOD.

Listen to the album's opener and title track, "Prisoner", and maybe your disbelief will be suspended for a little while as you take in the ethereal qualities of the band's musicianship. Layers upon layers of subtly effects-soaked guitars meld with ethereal keyboards and simple but pulse-like drumming, providing the perfect backdrop for Hayley Mary's crooned, occasionally country-inflected vocals. Stay a little while longer until the end of the album's first single, "Endless Summer", and you'll realise just how effortlessly Hayley's vocals combine her oh-so-Australian heart-rending croon with an undeniable sense of indie-pop's finest sing-along choruses, providing melodies strong enough to stick in your head for days. "But they've obviously front-loaded the album with the two best tracks. Any minute now the quality has to start to drop off." We can't help but expect disappointmentat every turn. It's by far the most common outcome. Why should this time be any different?

Stick around until mid-album highlight, "City Girl", and slowly the doubts start to fade away. There's something oddly fresh about The Jezabels. A sound that should get stale doesn't. A songwriting formula filled with sweet melodies and a steady supply of sing-along choruses that should, in theory, begin to become tiring and overbearing never does. They almost sound too Australian, both in their musical
composition and in their vocal performance-a quality which should prove irksome, but rarely does. It's not that the doubts are completely gone. They're just pushed to the side for the moment. But as the listening experience continues on, from the urgently epic feel of "Nobody Nowhere" to the soul-wrenching "Peace of Mind", the penultimate track of Prisoner, and everything in between, the doubts fade further and further into the background. Something in the way that the drums pound away with steady yet inventive rhythms, never overplaying the song, but never fading into background noise either keeps us holding on. Something in the energy exuded by the guitars with their delay-and-chorus soaked sweeping chord progressions that keeps us curious for more. Something in the otherworldy atmosphere of the keyboards that speak of an idyllic time past that never existed, a mixture of history and fantasy that provides the perfect escape from our prison that for a few moments supends our cynicism and doubt. But above all, it's the soulful croon of Hayley Mary, constantly fluctuating somewhere between vulnerable country girl and seductive femme fatale without ever losing its authenticity, without ever sounding pretentious or planned, that seals the deal for The Jezabels. For once, the hype was right. For once, our expectations were wrong. For once, we were mistaken. Maybe sometimes, we can discover something new and exciting.

Prisoner isn't always an instant album. Moments that sound awkward and ill-conceived on first listen reveal an emotionally-charged vulnerability and honesty on repeated listens. The flow of the album seems slightly off-kilter at first, until the rapidly-amassing wall of longing, of sadness, of escapism and fantasy finally comes crashing down and reveals the album for what it truly is. For a debut album, Prisoner is a superb achievement, and The Jezabels truly do have the potential to become Australia's premiere act in the next few years. But in the end, only one thing matters. For a few fleeting minutes in any given day, The Jezabels have the ability to captivate us all, to take us Prisoner to their heartstring-tugging masterpiece. As the final notes of closer "Catch Me" fade away, The Jezabels truly reveal their best part. The ability to remove us from the confines of everyday life, remove all of us everyday Prisoners from our everyday prisons, and speed our escape with that little bit of fantasy and idealism, and perfectly encapsulate the emotions we feel.



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user ratings (244)
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
DaveyBoy EMERITUS (4.5)
The rarity of a debut LP adding to an already superlative discography....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Butkuiss
October 13th 2011


4689 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

All critiques, comments and corrections are welcome, as usual! Thought this desperately needed to be reviewed. Apologies for any injustices I do to this album.

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
October 13th 2011


22498 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Awesome review Butkuiss. A few of us staff are currently playing a game of rock-paper-scissors to see who will review it... Since I'm sensing this will end up somewhere on our year-end list.

Butkuiss
October 13th 2011


4689 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

A complement from DaveyBoy?! Gosh, I must've done good!



It's already definitely in my top 10 for the year, unless around seven or so more-than-amazing-albums materialise in the next month and a half. Been a while since I reviewed anything so this seemed a nice release to motivate myself to get working on. There are a whole slew of Aussie acts on sputnik lacking representation, and these guys really are amazing.

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
October 13th 2011


22498 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Hey! You make it out that I never give compliments! ;-)



True, although I'd say Aussie bands getter a better run here than on most U.S based sites.

AtavanHalen
October 13th 2011


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

tl;dr



band blows chunks

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
October 13th 2011


22498 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Knocked you back for an interview?

Butkuiss
October 13th 2011


4689 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh, but a complement from Davey is a complement best treasured!



Yeah, Aus bands definitely do get a better go here than on most other sites, probably due in no small part to the nice Aus folk we have around these parts. But you can never have too much exposure, I guess.

Puzzles
October 13th 2011


3065 Comments


"tl;dr

band blows chunks"

Atavan, being a prick as always.
This is a fantastic review, man! I listened to the opener as I read it and would be lying if I said it didn't pique my interest. Downloading the record now, I'm really intrigued by the expansiveness and density of their sound, even though female vocals aren't usually my thing. Pos'd!

Butkuiss
October 13th 2011


4689 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks buddy! Yeah, I really love these guys. I'm usually fairly on the fence with female vocals, but the way Hayley melds with this band is just fantastic.

STOP SHOUTING!
October 13th 2011


777 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

well written, but i thought you overdid the hype angle a touch.

Collateral
October 13th 2011


69 Comments


Gewd review dude.. I can't say I'm a big fan of their sound/female vocalists altogether but it's interesting.
I pos'd it for ya

AtavanHalen
October 13th 2011


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Knocked you back for an interview?




Yeah I organise my own interviews



CK, ladies and gentlemen; showing his true prowess in music writing



Atavan, being a prick as always.




Ohhh schnookums, do you want mummy to kiss it better?



female vocals aren't usually my thing




You know you can't get girl germs off them, right?

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
October 13th 2011


32292 Comments


I hate it when people don't chuck something in the recommended by reviewer section

Who do these guys/girls sound like?

Butkuiss
October 13th 2011


4689 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I didn't chuck anything in cause really, my knowledge of the genre as a whole is limited at best, and I didn't want to put in anything that wasn't quite accurate. Always happy to take suggestions though.





DaveyBoy
Emeritus
October 13th 2011


22498 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Dev, just for you, I'm gonna share some notes I jotted down for a possible review... This is what I came up with: "The National fronted by Kate Bush, or Tori Amos leading Arcade Fire".

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
October 13th 2011


32292 Comments


Okay I can dig that. Will acquire post haste

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
October 13th 2011


22498 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Make sure you try at least one of their EPs as well... As I have seen around the traps that a few people who loved them, thought this to be a little disappointing.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
October 13th 2011


31822 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

this band is so gud

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 13th 2011


12348 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yes jose yes

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
October 13th 2011


31822 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

sahara mahala, old friend. be well.



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