Last month, I wrote about Jenn Champion, a Seattle, WA-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, who was born Jennifer Hays, who grew up in Tucson, AZ, where in the mid 90s, she worked at a local pizza shop with future bandmates Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke. In 1997 the trio moved to Olympia, WA for about a ear, before settling in Seattle and forming Hays’ first band Carissa’s Wierd. They only released three albums before splitting up in 2003, but the band had developed a devoted cult following that resulted in three compilation albums of their work, which included 2010’s They’ll Only Miss You When You’re Gone: Songs 1996-2003, which was released through Hardly Art Records.
Since the breakup of Carissa’s Wierd, Champion has focused on several acclaimed solo projects including, the sparse, guitar and vocals-based pop project S, which she has released four albums, including 2010’s I’m Not As Good At It As You and 2014’s Chris Walla-produced Cool Choices. Critics and fans have applauded her open-hearted lyrics, technical skill and willingness to eschew conventions — and perhaps more important for writing sad songs meant to be cried to (or should I say be cried with?). Interestingly, the B side of Champion’s last S album found her moving towards a more electronic-based sound — with “No One” finding Champion fully embracing electronics and electronic music, “I feel like a door got opened in my mind with electronic and digital music. There was a room I hadn’t explored before and I stepped in,” Champion says in press notes. While she’d initially intended to follow Cool Choices with “a rock record – guitar, a lot of pedals, heavy riffs,” plans changed. “I couldn’t pull myself away from the synthesizers and I realized the record I really wanted to make was more of a cross between Drake and Billy Joel than Blue Oyster Cult.”
After the release of “No One,” Champion’s publishers partnered her with Brian Fennell, an electronic music artist, songwriter and producer best known as SYML and the pair co-wrote “Leave Like That,” which was featured on SYML‘s Hurt For Me EP. Champion and Fennell hit it off so well that after Champion had written the demos for her forthcoming full-length Single Rider, she enlisted Fennell as a producer. Fennell agreed and they spent the next five months working on and refining the material on Single Rider. As Champion recalls, “In the studio with Brian, I was more open than I had ever been,” and as a result the material evolved into a slickly produced, anthemic dance floor friendly album; however, the new album reportedly finds Champion maintaining the earnest emotionality and vulnerability that has won her attention — but this time, the album’s material finds the acclaimed Seattle-based singer/songwriter imploring the listener to dance, dance, dance, dance, dance heartache, outrage and disappointment away, for a little bit at least. And goddamn it, sometimes strobe light, thumping bass and shimmering synths are so absolutely necessary to your basic survival.
Now, as you may recall, album single “Time To Regulate” was a slickly produced, sultry, propulsive and club friendly track centered around shimmering, arpeggiated synths, cowbell-led percussion. thumping beats and an anthemic hook that reminds me of Soft Metals‘ Lenses, Cut Copy‘s In Ghost Colours, of 80s synth soul and Giorgio Moroder; but underneath the slick production, thumping beats and razor sharp hooks, there’s a desperate person trying to put on a brave face on a daily basis — with the acknowledgment that sometimes just being can be difficult in itself, and that adds a triumphant, “well, fuck man,” vibe to the shimmering proceedings. Interestingly “Coming For You”is a slow-burning, synth pop jam that’s two-step inducing while clearly being indebted to 80s synth pop in a way that reminds me of the synth pop I heard as a boy, as well as contemporaries like St. Lucia and others.
Directed by Jen Harrington, the recently released video follows a series of friends calling each other to meet up with Champion for an old school-inspired dance party.