Jenny Logan might be the busiest woman in Portland. She plays with three different bands (Miss Rayon, Sunbathe, Loveboys, and, until recently, Summer Cannibals), practices civil rights law, helms the local community radio station XRAY.fm, and pours any leftover creative energy into her solo project, Deathlist, which she describes as “the band that plays the prom in the 1980s Winona Ryder movie in your dreams.”
That’s exactly what the steely post-punk of Deathlist sounds like, but with the detached coolness of Ryder lighting a post-explosion cigarette at the end of Heathers. There’s also plenty of angst behind the project; Logan says her moniker was inspired by an ex-roommate who had a Kill Bill-style list of enemies he’d stab repeatedly with a knife.
She wrote Deathlist’s 2017 self-titled debut after reconnecting with her estranged father, who’d been diagnosed with a rare blood disorder and told he only had a few months to live. It’s an honest, bittersweet portrait of a complicated relationship that lets old pain, new memories, and the anxiety around terminal illness coexist.
Her new follow-up, Fun, also deals with losing someone: “A month or so before I went in to record, my oldest friend passed away,” she says. “I left home when I was pretty young, and he was my first real friend. And he had kind of fucked-up parents too, so we bonded super hard and lived together as teenagers. Then we grew apart, as people and geographically, but I talked to him more than my family. I’ve had a lot of friends die, but when he passed away, it was pretty rough on me.”
She wrote music to process the trauma of having someone special unceremoniously ripped from her life, and in turn, Fun unintentionally became a concept album.
“I’m really into the idea of making concept records,” she says. “It’s really satisfying, it feels like you’ve completed an entire thought.”
Fun plays, ironically, like a tour through hell—it’s challenging, uncomfortable, and completely immersive. Some songs play like dirges (“Air”), while others (the catchy standout “Charm School”) feature banshee-like guitar freak-outs. Logan played almost every instrument herself, but decided to replace the live drums of Deathlist with hypnotically looped samples of drum sounds from the Cure’s 1982 record Pornography.
Though most of Fun is consumed with pain, later tracks like “Thaw” and “Live for You” find reasons to persist and scours for shards of hope in the aftermath of reality-shattering loss. Having some distance from the simultaneous recording and grieving process, Logan says it’s “therapeutic” for her to listen to Fun: “In the act of making art about him, I experienced this rebirth,” she explains.