I know, Jockstrap sounds like the name of some late 70s British punk band whose lead singer thinks that not taking a shower for a month is giving a middle finger to the system … which is exactly what this band is! Actually, I lied, sorry to disappoint you, you were probably jumping out of your seats to grab your headphones, now you probably hate me. In actuality, Jockstrap is a collaboration between songwriter Georgia Ellery and producer Taylor Skye. Their debut album “I Love You Jennifer B” is an eclectic scrapbook of electronic sounds, glitchy synths, blown-out drums and a full 18-piece orchestra. Sounds epic, right? Yes, it is.
There is a tense balancing act on this album, teetering between chaos and control, release and restraint. This is heard most prominently on the emotional centerpiece of the album, “Concrete Over Water.” The song starts out very simply with low, resonant synth notes complementing Ellery’s melancholic lyrics reminiscing over a past lover. Then, suddenly, a wave of glitchy distorted vocals and beeps crashes into the song. Cosmic arpeggios and a high-pitched synthesizer darting right and left across the stereo join the digital ensemble, and by the time the chorus arrives, the song has evolved into some kind of maximalist art pop conglomerate with horns and strings —and just as soon as it starts, the musical tide rolls back out and the song returns to spareness and simplicity. The composition wobbles between these two extremes for the duration of this six-minute epic, never definitively setting itself in one aesthetic, but nonetheless guiding the listener through the story of the narrator’s tumultuous relationship with its abrupt switch-ups and sound effects.
While some songs, like the aforementioned “Concrete Over Water,” as well as “Neon” and “Debra,” whiplash between an intimate singer-songwriter ballad and pompous chamber pop, there are a handful of more straightforward songs, like “Greatest Hits,” an over-the-top disco-era pop tune with a groovy Daft Punk-esque bassline, as well as “Glasgow,” a folky guitar ballad with their signature glitchy sound effects sprinkled throughout the track. The whole album sounds like some of Björk’s earlier records if she had spent time at an EDM rave, and also if she was British and also split herself in half so she became two people.
While Ellery’s songwriting is relatively esoteric, we catch glimpses of the story she is trying to tell, one of grief, pain and resistance to change. It is a little ironic how much the lyricism and soundscape contrast: one is mired in regret and reminiscence, the other is forward-thinking and shape-shifting. Ellery is doubtless aware of this fact, and she often plays into the melodrama, adding a humorous tone to her lyrics. In “Glasgow” she sings, “I touch myself / Every time I see / What’s missing in my life.” Are we supposed to laugh? Cry? Both?
As a final note, I will say that the record is missing a kind of cohesiveness, and it comes off as a hodgepodge of art pop earworms that lacks a strong theme or sound to tie it all together. It’s a bit all over the place, and this makes some of the song transitions a little janky and awkward.
But this is merely a slight fault in the grandiose spectacle of this incredible album. “I Love You Jennifer B” is just Jockstrap’s first record, and it already shows so much potential for the band, so I am very excited to see where they go from here.
Album: “I Love You Jennifer B”
Label: Rough Trade
Favorite songs: “Glasgow,” “Concrete Over Water,” “50/50 – Extended Mix”
If you like: Björk, SOPHIE, Magdalena Bay
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5
Contact Coby at firstname.lastname@example.org