You don’t have to be alone.
Friends are everywhere.
Some albums are just… meant to be for the time they are released. The tumultuous, fraught, tense year we’ve had has many of us looking at the calendar, longing for a change in fortune when 2021 (hopefully) quietly makes its debut. 2020 was a year of loss, as much it has been a year that we’ve lost. Much of our lives has been upended, changing in ways that have taken months to get accustomed to, but will likely sit with us for a long time to come.
For musicians, it’s been a struggle to survive, as venues have had to close - some permanently - and the touring industry has been brought to its knees. What’s a creator like Jess Lamb to do when the main source of sharing the music they make is taken away from them? Who do they lean on? Who do they turn to?
That weight and worry, and the hope and longing for something better, permeates You Are, a lovely, at times ethereal Winter release from Cincinnati’s own Jess Lamb and The Factory. Mood music from start to finish, it both sets and creates that mood, slowly and confidently unwinding, as sure of itself as the foundation it’s built upon.
Tonally, it feels of a piece with Death Cab For Cutie’s seminal work, Transatlanticism, with its sonic throughline of approachable dissonance. It’s DNA relies more on Lamb’s previous output, as well as artists like Tori Amos, Cat Power, and Fiona Apple, and I feel like You Are has the makings of an album that likely started in isolation but finds itself both a document and a touchpoint for so troubling a time. It’s an album we can collectively experience and enjoy here and now, but maybe even more so in the future, when we’re trying to explain to those who didn’t live through what 2020 has become just exactly how exhausting, isolating, and weird 2020 was for everyone.
Interestingly, and importantly, it doesn’t just capture the sort of “we’re all in this together” isolation of living through the country’s worst pandemic since 1918, but the expanded sense of togetherness that’s coalesced around the desire - and need - for diversity in every aspect of our lives. It’s a feminist call to arms, made into powerful music with twinkling pianos, Lamb’s quavering vocals, and a sense of purpose. From opener “Come On Over,” through the ambient, subtle “Cocoon,” to it’s rousing, powerful closer, “Beautiful,” You Are is an album that wants to immerse you in everything that this talented artist has to offer. And in the case of the Cincinnati-centric collaboration of female musicians on “Beautiful,” a not so subtle reminder that this city’s talent lies across a broad spectrum of genres, musicality, and gender. I’m reluctant to use the word “anthem,” as I don’t want to take away from what is really one of the best endings to an album I’ve heard in quite some time.
Who knows what 2021 will hold - if this year is any indication, we probably shouldn’t count on much. For now, though, we should be thankful for the good things we’ve seen, listened, and shared. So I’m thankful to have been able to hear You Are so late in the year. Now, 2021 doesn’t seem so frighteningly distant or unknown.
Jess Lamb and The Factory release You Are on Friday, December 25. Please give it a listen.