There are albums that move you, and then there are those that inspire. Cannes-born, Los Angeles-based Julie Jay‘s new EP under the moniker Tiny Dinosaurs undoubtedly falls in the latter category. Awake is the first of a two-part EP release, and its emotive power lies in a single experience that would change Jay’s life forever:
(T)he project was born after a traumatic surgery that led to a coma. I had no idea if I was ever going to get my voice back to normal, let alone my singing voice. As soon I woke up from the coma, I asked my sister to bring me my guitar at the hospital and started writing songs.
Awake is a tour de force. While the songs may feel melancholic and sombre at times, a quiet ferocity lurks beneath Jay’s fragile voice. It is the will of a person who is unwilling to relent to what fate may have in store. The courage of a young woman who will define her path. The EP’s lead single and opening track, “Shut Out The Light”, encapsulates Jay’s personal and musical journey. The stirring, sullen atmosphere and Peter Silbermann’s (from The Antlers) supporting vocals heighten the pain and remorse of this song shrouded in memory and fear. It is unknown if Jay is paying tribute to someone she has lost or the life that she once lived. One thing, however, is very clear: Jay sings with the quiet conviction of a person who will overcome anything.
Akin to the powerful and emotionally-charged music created by Sharon Van Etten, “Sit and Stare” is another heartbreaking and introspective track. The song’s emotion is amplified by Jay’s delicate and vulnerable vocals and the lo-fi, bedroom instrumentation, where the synths and guitars appear to be weeping. It is unclear whether this was the first song that Jay wrote in her hospital bed, but it is easy to envision her solitary figure humming the lyrics as her fingers softly strum the guitar strings.
With “Shake”, Tiny Dinosaurs is reborn. The song is vibrant, energized, and anthemic. It is one part Sharon Van Etten and another part Wolf Parade – a lush but urgent rocker that has Jay shaking away the tears of the past and welcoming the sunlight of a new day. “Never Be” slows things down, as Jay reminisces of events of the past. Her vocals are vulnerable, as she shares a beautiful goodbye to someone long gone. That person again could be Jay herself and someone dear to her. “Life is a distant memory”, she utters quietly, as if two lives have been taken.
The EP concludes with the brilliant “Insomnia”. The pulsating instrumentation and the cinematic build give the song an absorptive quality. And as Jay repeatedly says, “If I sleep, I will. I will die before your eyes”, it seems Jays has come to accept her mortality. She is, however, not succumbing to her plight, but instead of telling us that it is not this day she will allow sleep – or death – to take her over. She is after all a survivor, and there are still many more stories for her to share. If the next batch of songs are also memorable and powerful as those on Awake, the likes of Pitchfork, Stereogum, and The 405 will be mentioning Tiny Dinosaurs in the same breath as her friend and mentor, Sharon Van Etten.
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