An accurate description of Jaymay, in my opinion, is ‘wilfully mysterious’. A search for information on her revealed a series of dead ends and blank ‘about’ pages. My most promising lead, a short blurb about the lady in question, was half concealed beneath a poorly positioned photograph. What I can tell you of Jaymay is that she made a name for herself on the New York scene (so is most certainly American or, possibly, Canadian) and that Autumn Fallin’ is her debut album following a 2005 EP. All I can ask, kind reader, is that you forgive my general ignorance of my subject. Mea culpa.
Jaymay is (I believe) another product of the so-called antifolk scene. Indeed, she shares many qualities with the lovely Regina Spektor; certain tracks on this album do have a distinctly Regina-ish flavour. There are also, stylistically and tambourinistically, some parallels between Jaymay and Hope Sandoval, though the former is far less lugubrious and ethereal. Autumn Fallin’ does perhaps suffer from a want of originality. There isn’t a lot here that you won’t have heard somewhere or other before, but don’t let this put you off too quickly, for there is a lot more Jaymay has to give to offset any weaknesses.
My favourite thing about Autumn Fallin’ is its tone. There is something wondrously serene about the music Jaymay makes, as if she had discovered the musical formula for tranquility. This is an album to collapse at home to at the end of the day, when you can just lie face down and fully clothed on your bed and relax for a moment, sighing happily to yourself. Perhaps this quality comes from the pretty harmonies and rounds that Jaymay creates with the backing vocals (particularly noticeable on ‘Gray Or Blue’ and ‘Sycamore Down’), or the way in which optimism and hope drips from every word. And what words they are. The lyrics are, for the most part, excellent if a little self-indulgent.
With her slightly husky and bluesy voice, Jaymay meanders her way through the lengthy ‘Sea Green, See Blue’, a fascinating deconstruction of a failed relationship with clever sideways lyrical shots like “you moved to Montréal to be closer to France / how’s that working out? / how’s the music, how’s the food?”. ‘Blue Skies’ is a more rhythmic piece, where her vocals really soar, and the snappy ‘Hard To Say’ evokes a 1930s cabaret scene complete with jazz scatting scarcely heard in a pop song. The weakest track, and the longest, is the surely Bob Dylan-inspired ‘You’d Rather Run’, which is a touch too repetitive to warrant its ten-minute length. This is redeemed in part by the fact that the tune is very reminiscent of the music from Carnival Night Zone in Sonic The Hedgehog 3, a comparison I take an inordinate amount of pleasure in dredging up out of the past.
Jaymay has created an album whose charms are difficult to define. Autumn Fallin’ might not take us to new and unexplored reaches of the musical continuum, but it is such a pleasure to listen to that I can quite happily say that, in this case, I don’t even care. This is blissful stuff.
[Heavenly/EMI; January 28, 2008]