Unless your name is Ani DiFranco or Beck, there seems to be something slightly disingenuous about the “anti-folk” tag. I, along with most of the listening public, have never really understood what anti-folk really entailed. With the aforementioned artists, that distinction becomes easier, with Ani mixing folk guitar styles with a punk aesthetic, and Beck throwing some hip-hop and soul into his mix of ’60s guitar driven style. But, for the most part, music and artists that have come out of the anti-folk scene sound less like something anti and more like something establishment. Maybe that’s the `anti’ in anti-folk. Whereas the original genre was anti-establishment, maybe anti-folk is anti-anti-establishment. Either way, the genre is essentially the equivalent of adult alternative MOR. Artists such as Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, Regina Spektor and Nellie McKay are perfect examples of established artists in the field who appeal to a wide variety of listeners, and rightly so. Their intoxicating coos are enough to soothe even the most savage of breasts. And now their ranks are joined by another anti-folk poster girl, one who goes by the name of Jaymay.
Jaymay is the nom de plume of Jamie Seerman, and up until her debut album dropped I had only heard her name mentioned as a guest on the latest Dirty on Purpose EP. That appearance did nothing to answer any questions I may have had about the buzz surrounding this `anti-folkster,’ so I simply had to request the review duties for Autumn Fallin’. Thankfully, I haven’t been the least bit disappointed. As a comparison to the artists above, Jaymay falls somewhere square in the middle. She’s not as angry as Fiona, as sad as Norah, as vaudevillian as Spektor or as patently weird as McKay. Instead, Jaymay displays flashes of all of these traits in small doses on her lovelorn debut, Autumn Fallin’.
Tracks throughout this debut can seem as stripped down as early Iron & Wine, but then the odd bit of percussion flourish and playful backup vocal chime in and simple goes out the window, such as in the opener, “Gray or Blue.” I was especially struck by the Liz Phair-like honesty in lines like “I can’t keep starin’ at your mouth without wonderin’ how it tastes,” but the juxtaposed backup vocals provide a different story of one not so bold, saying, “I won’t make the move, U must make the move,” the contrast surely setting up disappointment. “Blue Skies” is a Fiona Apple-style track that truly highlights Jaymay’s enchanting voice, while “Sea Green, See Blue’s” humming choruses recall Simon and Garfunkel.
At this point, while listening, you notice that most, if not all, of the tracks revolve around thoughts of the brokenhearted. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Dylan-esque “You’d Rather Run.” While the music sounds like Jaymay hijacked Al Kooper and the Band from the Blonde on Blonde sessions, playing a steady, circus-type rhythm, the lyrics highlight a jealous lover in the peak of pain, making her reminiscent of another anti-folkster, one Ms. DiFranco, though as I stated before, not as angry. “Hard to Say” takes a different tack, pointing out the range of Jaymay’s style, as she scats and vocalizes trumpet sounds in this jazzy and weird tune. Unfortunately, it plays more like a high school audition than anything else. Luckily, she gets back on track with “Big Ben” and doesn’t look back, leaving this two-minute aberration as nothing more than a slight and whimsical intermission. “Ill Willed Person” and “You Are the Only One I Love” reward those listeners able to hang through “Hard to Say” with delicate, silken voiced heartfelt tracks that make you wish you were the object of Jaymay’s affections, no matter which sex.
Autumn Fallin’ is more than just a solid debut from Jaymay, it’s an album that tricks one into believing it must be the artist’s third or fourth, and subsequently more mature, album. With the buzz surrounding this up and coming artist, I found many comparisons to Feist, and though not entirely unfounded, can be misleading. Feist centers her world around catchy and danceable basslines, making one rejoice in `teenage hopes.’ Jaymay centers her world around a more stripped down musical core, leading one less likely to dance and more likely to curl up into a ball on the couch thinking about past lovers and forlorn crushes. Jaymay is sure to capture a lot of hearts, just as her anti-folk predecessors have, even though I’ll never quite understand the term.