Two years, Jessica Jalbert, under the moniker Faith Healer, released one of the best debut albums of 2015 with Cosmic Troubles, which was a dazzling psychedelic experience. The record, however, flew under the radar. This time around things should be different because her sophomore album, Try 😉, is the best record released by a Canadian this week, which is saying a lot.
A familiarity exists between Try 😉 and Cosmic Troubles. The music of the late ’60s and ’70s permeates both LPs, and Jalbert’s songwriting remains honest and personal. Differences, though, abound. It starts with Jalbert no longer being the sole tenant of Faith Healer, as her friend, drummer, and multi-instrumentalist Remy Wilson joins her full-time (he did perform on Cosmic Troubles). The arrangements are less askew and more linear, leading to a fuller, louder, and more accessible sound. Finally, a confidence exudes throughout and contributes to a record that is relaxed and exhilarating.
The companion tracks, “Such a Gemini” and “Try ;-)”, best exhibit the new Faith Healer. While the instrumentation is taut and a laid-back vibe circulates throughout both songs, the two are captivating. Wilson’s drumming, synth work, and bass possess a funky coolness. Jalbert’s vocals, meanwhile, are wonderfully lush, and her guitar rings out dreamy notes that are intoxicating.
Her songwriting is also impeccable, as the two songs seamlessly converge. “Such a Gemini” sets the stage, describing a woman finding the perfect partner but unfortunately the stars don’t align. Like in all great stories, however, nothing can come between the two, and the power of love overwhelms. But the most striking part of the songs is the segue between the two, as for 25 seconds Jalbert and Wilson are talking and their conversation has nothing to do with the music. This momentary interruption reveals the bandmates’ chemistry, confidence, and joy in making the record.
One does not have to wait until halfway into the album to realize that Try 😉 will be an unforgettable, awe-inspiring experience. The opener, “Waiting”, recalls the warm intimacy of Mary Chapin Carpenter. It provides the perfect lead in to “Light of Loving”, which showcases Jalbert’s fierce, psychedelic rock hooks and Wilson’s alt-rock band drum work. Together they create a massive wall of sound akin to the earth-shaking volume of Courtney Barnett or The Black Lips if fronted by Amber Webber of Black Mountain fame. The final two-and-a-half minutes are some of the best in music this year. Neil Young is channeled on the fantastic folk rocker “Might As Well”, which is made for long road trips. But instead of a growling voice, Jalbert’s vocals echo the breathtaking quality of Hope Sandoval.
Faith Healer takes us to church on “Sterling Silver”, and this gorgeous number embodies how music can simultaneously be blissful and mournful. Jalbert’s vocals reach a heavenly level, and her lyrics mirror the reflective nature of the song. Wilson’s production and percussion work are fantastic, as he deliberately paces the song and cleverly places elements (the soaring synths and the echo from the electric drums in particular stand out). The entire song is reminiscent, dare we say, of Prince, as the duo have made the intimate unexpectedly thrilling.
Jalbert and Wilson show their groovy, soulful side on “2nd Time”. The track is reminiscent of Whitney’s reinterpretation of ’60s soft rock, but Faith Healer make it more sublime. The piano work is tremendous, and Jalbert’s songwriting is on par with Joni Mitchell. Faith Healer turn up the intensity on “Sufferin’ Creature”. This upbeat rocker is one part Fleetwood Mac, another part Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and a good portion of Widowspeak. Jalbert’s storytelling reaches a fantasy / fairytale level, although is the creature in question someone she knows or like the reptile from The Princess and the Frog?
The album comes to a conclusion with the lovely, psychedelic-pop gem “Best Saved 4 Last”. Jalbert’s spine-tingling vocals are at their most intimate with instrumentation that is spellbinding. It’s the one song on the album that is ideal for just shutting your eyes and being swept away by the duo’s splendor. After that track ends, there is only one thing left to do – hit repeat and experience the entire album again because Try 😉 is a throwback to an era when music was honest, meaningful, and personal. It recalls a time when a single album was an adventure, and the music moved listeners in multiple ways and elicited various responses. These records are often described with just one word: classic.
Faith Healer is currently on tour. Find dates and information here.
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