Album Review: Jessie Baylin ‘Little Spark’
I have realized that the key to my success in 2012 is to master the art of multitasking. As my head spins, I understand that this year is the busiest that I have been in my entire life. The first months have been jam packed with a new job, travel, spending time with family and friends, and continuing to try find the next album that sticks with me. Often, my posts come fast and provide me with an immediate opportunity to share my favorite new music with you. While I am granted a certain satisfaction from my contributions, it is immediate and then forgotten. There is little time to reflect on yesterday while sharing my tastes as there is always something new that I want to be talking about. The best part of contributing to this rapid-fire blog post blitz is when a record stands so tall that I hit a wall and reflect. Overcoming this type of obstacle is a blessing because it forces me to slow down and focus as life moves 100 miles per hour in front of me. This type of record demands a certain focus and a conscious concentration. Although, it is a tower to climb, the journey offers an opportunity to open the door for much needed meditation. Jessie Baylin’s Little Spark is the first record to insert itself in my musical skyline this year and I think it will linger a while before returning to earth.
Singer-songwriter Jessie Baylin uses beautiful arrangements to make Little Spark resonate with its listeners. After the first time I listened to this record, I pondered on its messages and realized that this was one that I could tell my parents about. A stripped down, masterfully orchestrated piece about love bred from a vocal fusion of country and soul made me realize that it not only spoke to different genres, but more importantly opposing generations. Little Spark strikes a myriad emotional chords, which provide a catalyst for thought. Listeners of all ages can relate to this material.
It should be noted that while Baylin’s vocals provide the talking points on this record, it is Richard Swift who has built its backbone with his consistently strong arrangements. Longtime member of The Shins, Swift serves as the chief arranger, multi-instrumentalist, and a pseudo coach for Baylin during the recording. Swift brought Baylin to Oregon to record the first three tracks and then finished the journey with producer Kevin Augunas in Los Angeles. The adoption of a stellar supporting cast displays Baylin’s flexibility and willingness to progress. Early listeners of Baylin will admit that Little Spark does not sound like anything that she has ever recorded. The influence of Swift, Augunas and composer Jimmie Haskell fostered a growth in Baylin’s writing.
“The Greatest Thing That Never Happened”
Track, “The Greatest Thing That Never Happened” begins with simple piano chords and a slow bass line that emphasizes Baylin’s commitment to simplicity. Horns enter to provide emphasis to the melody, a point for Swift that is noted by attentive listeners. Baylin’s vocals remain the centerpiece throughout, with each additional sound strategically designed by the album’s veteran architects. A full team effort that shows that it takes more than a star singer to create a championship recording.
For me, “Yuma” serves as Little Spark‘s signature track. Baylin’s voice peaks as she sings, “Give him Arizona, and I took the California coast, tired of borders, I am going back to where I left my ghost.” This post-breakup seclusion displays the stick in the ground separation that we all demand after heartbreak. The incorporation of specific locations provides value to Baylin’s story as she paints a picture of the power of separation for all her listeners. Eventually, we all realize there is a time to jump the borders and explore new territory. Baylin displays that destination is oftentimes unknown, but the thought of relocation lead by the openness to explore new lands. “Yuma” provides the off the cuff escape that can help fill the void and turn down the blues. A fantastic fantasy laced with hope and message that Baylin drives into following track “Holiday”. These songs present an obstacle for listeners while providing the important opportunity to reflect before having to make that decision.
The structure of ‘Little Spark’ offers an extremely listenable record open to many forums. It goes well with coffee in the morning. It helps to maintain composure while battling a deadline at work. It provides company in a single bedroom apartment. Most importantly, it provides me the opportunity to talk music with Dad. An opportunity that will always slow down time, no matter how insane life gets.
Written by Brett McGrath