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Album Of The Week

City Lights: I Love You Jennifer B By Jockstrap
Irina Shtreis , September 8th, 2022 08:13

Sincerity of an urban loner permeates Jockstrap’s debut album, finds Irina Shtreis

Photo by Eddie Whelan

The driving force behind Jockstrap is a duo consisting of Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye. Now 24-year-olds, the two met at the Guildhall School Of Music & Drama where they were studying jazz and electronic composition respectively. Despite I Love You Jennifer B being the duo’s debut album, both members have been in the limelight with other projects. Ellery has been part of Black Country, New Road and collaborated with Jamie XX; Skye has been working as a solo artist and making remixes, deconstructing pop hits by Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean and Beyonce. 

As Jockstrap, the two create a palette which is as eclectic as the contemporary cityscape of London, incorporating the lively pulse of Brick Lane, the retrofuturistic brutalist facades of the Barbican, and the baroque-pop charm of Camden Walk in Islington. In a way, this texture is akin to early James Blake albums, postcards with a watercolour landscape of an imaginary city. Yet, despite these allusions, Jockstrap manage to create a recognisable ecosphere of sound.   

Jockstrap’s music results from equal contributions by the two members. These components are as different and compatible as yin and yang. Disobedient post-dubstep arrangements by Taylor Skye dress Georgia Ellery’s volatile songs with a substantial layer of dancefloor gravity. The misleading folk sensibility during the first seconds of the album takes a turn towards deep-diving trip-hop. These unexpected twists are seemingly what the duo is aiming at. They can be either musical or lyrical. The free use of the word “fuck” on sixth track ‘Angst’ contrasts with the gentle melancholy of the electric harp arrangement. The song interprets anxiety as a devastating process similar to childbirth. It refers to Ellery’s early memory of her mother comparing an anxious fit to “laying an egg”. The fairytale-like harp gives a hint at the stillness of surroundings where a worrier can hardly find solace, swearing under his breath. 

Similar collage principles apply to the production. Demo fragments are incorporated in the texture of a few songs, giving them a slightly haunting feel. Guitar-led ‘Lancaster Court’ is the only ballad on the album, featuring snippets from Ellery’s recorded vocal practice. The song sees Ellery playing guitar on record for the first time. With occasional brushes of flute and percussion, the ballad conjures up the interior of a dark hotel room where a sexual encounter might happen. 

On the preceding track ‘Glasgow’, layers of combined lo-fi and studio vocals are recorded over strumming guitar akin to that on Bon Iver’s second album. The song sounds lighter and more self-assertive than the rest of the album. However, the mood swings by the end: “In that moment, I am so low / In that moment, I am so alone”. 

The enigmatic quality of the band’s music doesn’t prevent it from being a suitable soundtrack to life within a particular place. Heterogenous as it is, the architecture of London is often brought to mind. ‘Concrete Over Water’ conjures up the gloomy grace of the Barbican estate. Both Ellery and Skye had studied at Guildhall not long before the track was produced. With the lyrics addressing particular places such as Italy and Spain, there is seemingly one particular and non-existent place, a memory in the head of the lyrical hero. The song starts with calliope-like keyboards and Ellery’s vocals, giving a sort of a recollection of events that might be either pre-pandemic, pre-Brexit or pre-whatever: “I live in the city / The tower's blue and the sky is black / I feel the night / I sit, it's on my back / On my back / It makes me cry / This European air, I swear it does”. 

References to various geographical locations permeate the album. Whether it’s a city (‘Glasgow’) or a single building (‘Lancaster Court’), the record brings up a sense of constant – and restless – motion, familiar to any resident of a metropolis. 

Closer ‘50/50 (Extended)’ is a grinding dubstep track, as opposed to the emotive overtones on most of the record. That doesn’t diminish Jockstrap’s sincerity but shows the way emotions can be suppressed or transformed through a heavy dancefloor workout. The fact that both members are 24-year-olds partly explains the choice of their artistic names as well as the title of their debut record. As you age, levels of vulnerability gradually stabilise. The themes the group explore are familiar to the majority of those living on this planet and, particularly, in its most populated parts. Anxiety, alienation, longing, tidal waves of desire, pain resulting from acknowledging one’s ignorance and arrogance, etc., etc. After all, I Love You Jennifer B could be a statement on a wall of a residential block, inscribed by a smitten teenager. 

Different people find different versions of a metaphorical airbag that would prevent them from an emotional accident. Drawing from this, Jockstrap offers a figurative protection for the most exposed parts. Although this music is far from being therapeutic for the listener, it eagerly invites you into their strange, emotive and intensely kinetic world. Decide for yourself whether it is worth stepping in.