Jen Gloeckner – Mouth of Mars
If you haven’t heard of Jen Gloeckner, you need to. There’s something about the way her dreamy music comes together that makes it altogether unique and completely fresh. I recently got my hands on her 15-track CD, Mouth of Mars – an entirely beautiful collection of songs like the voices of delicate hidden curios telling their stories for the first time.
Gloeckner easily evokes an early Stevie Nicks, Portishead, and Sneaker Pimps’ Kelly Ali in sound, and a mid-career Nick Cave (Henry’s Dream, Tender Prey) lyrically. But while Nick Cave deals solely in a hard-scrabble earth-bound reality where any otherworldly interaction is a Christian one – the lyrical characters have real struggles and physical brawls with angels and demons; Gloeckner is much less literal. Her experience is a trip into a multi-sensual dreamworld, illustrated aurally. The instrumentation is every bit as lyrically beautiful as the well-placed vocal effects reminiscent of psychotropic Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Where Nick Cave confronts you and looks you square in the holes of your soul, Gloeckner makes you receptive. She draws your eyes upwards and around, making you chase the sounds of the universal soul.
Mouth of Mars opens ethereally with the title track; soft tones are contrasted by heavy, clanking bells like the rusted wind chimes of an old farmhouse or Depression glass clanking on a window sill right before the tornado hits. Sweeping psychedelic effects serve to pluck the song from this world and jettison it back into the cosmos.
Gloeckner pulls your boat into rough waters with the uptempo “Die”, whose pounding rhythm drives on at an unrelenting breakneck pace, compared to the rest of the album. But she has a knack for soothing you with uneasy overtones. It’s in the contrast between her homey, earthy voice and the music that shoots off into the black keys and gets the knobs twisted a little too far, too suddenly.
In “Trip” and “Peace Among Chaos”, this contrast is muted, giving way to dreamy, drifty songs that act as a respite, an oasis on a cloud, or the eerily, beautifully still eye of a hurricane. Then “Let’s Get Honest”, though short, hands you a beer and welcomes you back inside around a warm wooden hearth. Now there is a part in every album, on every set list, about three-quarters of the way through, where the band stalls out a bit in the story, and Gloeckner’s no exception. Fortunately, she only falls prey for two songs. “Come In My Garden” and “Mouth of Mars Reprise” leave you stranded in the dreamworld a little too long, and you’re left paddling your canoe on a misty lake, no land in sight, no one else around, and right before you get that “…..am I stuck?” precursor to panic, “A Lullaby” picks up the macabre pace and gets the story moving, and “Bailing Water” suddenly throws gothic overcast skies and blackened bare trees into the mix. The darker overtones continue to the last song, “5 2nd Thrill”, which could easily be thrown into the rotation at Bar Sinister, or on the next Twilight installment soundtrack.
Jen Gloeckner is a storyteller in lyric, music, and in the undertones. Mouth of Mars reads more like a soundtrack to a movie I’d be the first in line to see, as you can’t help but fabricate a story to go with the music, it’s that tangible and immediate. It’s music that draws you in like an old radio show – you really can’t easily do much of anything else while listening to Mouth of Mars. And you won’t want to. For music as a perfect escape into the ether, let Jen Gloeckner’s Mouth of Mars be your guide.