My Jessica Dennison + Jones fandom began last summer when I wandered into an alley café and, while waiting for a friend, noticed the concert happening in a tucked-away corner. Playing to an impressively attentive audience that included small children and grandparents, Jessica Dennison and Jessica Jones were making music so slight I could barely hold on to it or give it a name. I stayed for only a few songs, but left convinced that I had just witnessed Portland’s best-kept musical secret.
Thankfully, the band’s music made its way to the good folks at Party Damage Records (Point Juncture WA, Máscaras, Aan), who are letting the secret out into the world this weekend. Backed by an infectiously sparse rhythm section, the band’s self-titled debut induces nostalgia without being a distillation of any particular scene or time period. That said, the album sounds so familiar that most listeners will likely attempt to puzzle out the sources of its sepia-toned mystery.
While listening I was reminded of the alt-country-tinged dream pop of Mazzy Star, Cotton Jones, and the Cowboy Junkies. I thought I heard nods, in its ostensibly twee surface and sly lyrical depth, to songwriters like Katy Davidson or Rose Melberg. But the album reminded me most of the sublime ease of the Innocence Mission on their 2007 folk-pop masterpiece We Walked in Song.
Admittedly, this album is not for everyone. The band’s understated approach will certainly leave many listeners wondering what the big deal is, and for others, the tweeness will simply be too twee. But for me, Jessica Dennison + Jones is a work of musical restraint and seemingly straightforward yet labyrinthine lyrics. It’s an album I could flip endlessly, a dream I don’t want to end, the perfect low-key soundtrack to most of life. I listen and imagine all the moments of my future that will be made better because of its existence.