“And I only have this one body,” Jenn Wasner tells us after the intro to her solo album If You See Me Say Yes. Kinda makes sense that the Wye Oak half’s extra-curricular pull was so strong, then, given that Flock of Dimes razes all that moody stuff for a record that sings to the brim with Wasner’s own personality. She has a lot to say, and sometimes in this industry your ex-band types only get one chance to say it.
It’s certainly a fiercely independent showcase, and quite right for it. “My love is not an object that rusts with lack of youth,” she sings on the opener Birthplace, more determined than she’s ever been as the track builds around her melodic tone. It’s the start of the record’s gleeful gallop, one that ironically talk about the charmed life to catchy beats on The Joke, or gives us the handclap indie-pop of our dreams on Everything Is Happening Today.
But the joy from Wasner’s record comes when you realise how much she eschews its synthetic form – the electronic beats, the cosmic synths – for heart and strength in her songwriting. The drum pattern pounds as its surrounded with guitar on Semaphore, with the lines “Put your pen and paper away/ I have no need for you to guess my aim… I can tie my own laces/ find the solace I seek in other places” ringing so clearly before that catchy chorus. It’s one of the most perfectly constructed songs of the year, and arguably one of the top five of 2016 full stop.
Comparisons are no one’s friend, but the way this record delivers on so many levels is a reminder of another great contemporary American songwriter, Jenny Lewis – the pithy, memorable statements ensconced in singalong melodies, the dramatic production on songs like Ida Glow never compromising either message or personality. In that respect, Wasner graduates to an even more accomplished level than her parent band allows, and Flock of Dimes is full of golden quarters to savour.