She’s toured worldwide with renowned Australian roots reggae band Blue King Brown (as their former backing singer) but this year Jess Harlen has decided to focus on her own music, cooking up some fresh new tracks.
Park Yard Slang is the second album by the Melbourne based artist which was released on March 30, 2012 through Obese Records. It is evident that there has been a significant shift of events in Harlen’s music since the release of Neon Heartache, 2011 LP (through Plethora Records).
Both albums were produced by renowned award-winning producer, Plutonic Lab. Therefore with the collaboration of two talented musicians bringing out a string of various skills – not to mention Harlen’s sweet and soothing voice, it was anticipated that we’d have sheer quality. And that’s what we got!
The opening and aptly titled track “Get Ready” is an appropriate introductory song to the album. With enticing vocals and the catchy beat it is already ample to draw the listener into further exploration of Park Yard Slang. Title track “Park Yard Slang” is a nice transition maintaining the slow tempo before “Weaving”. Here the tempo slightly builds up leading into jaunty, upbeat rock style track “Let You Down”, the first single released off the album. Reggae, dancehall influenced “Plantation” features Melbourne based reggae artist RuCL.
“Colliding” is a romanticised ‘feel good’ song that seems to depict the themes of patience and beauty. “Reach Home” is an emotive; melancholic yet encouraging and promising song about being courageous, facing present fears and of the past, insecurities and worries in order to overcome them. Harlen switches to the ukulele where the listener is gently lullabied with “Day Dreamer”, followed by another encouraging and humbling track, “Up To Me”.
Then follows “Beautiful Struggle” which illustrate life as full of love, pain, disappointment and change but also encourages the listener to accept it as inevitable as it is – a beautiful struggle. One is encouraged to take the responsibility of moving forward. Finally, one could say that “Silence” is another aptly titled track to top off the album.
Overall, Harlen maintains humility in her songwriting, which are personal reflections that people can relate to. It’s a courageous and great thing to see that there is more experimentation with the incorporation of different instruments and a variety of genres including soul, acoustic, reggae, dancehall and rock influences, producing something fresh and versatile to listen to. Harlen is definitely an artist to look out for this year!
Park Yard Slang is available on iTunes, JB Hi-Fi stores and other good music stores.
Review Score: 9 out of 10
Jess Harlen’s ‘Park Yard Slang’ Tour 2012
For more information visit www.facebook.com/JessHarlenMusic
*As originally appeared on The AU Review.