Whenever an artist steps out from their main band to make a record as a solo or side project, comparisons to their primary project inevitably arise. With recent examples including Will Butler, Angel Deradoorian, and Martin Courtney, the focus is on the ability to differentiate themselves from the band they’re typically associated with. For Jenny Lee Lindberg, bassist of Warpaint, her first solo record, right on!, proves to be an expansion of the sounds of her main band while also serving as a clear demarcation of her own voice shining through.
While her bass is often the driving force behind Warpaint’s propulsive work, Lindberg’s vocal work in that band is largely confined to background vocals, whereas here she steps to the fore. Warpaint’s 2014 self-titled second album showed serious growth, expanding beyond standard psych rock towards hazy, grooving rhythms that landed somewhere in between Cocteau Twins and Radiohead circa In Rainbows. On her own, Lindberg develops a less polished, more energetic post-punk that suits her talents well.
From an atmospheric standpoint, Lindberg’s solo work isn’t such a departure from her usual work that it wouldn’t fit alongside in Warpaint in a playlist. Stylistically, however, she pushes herself confidently towards a new direction. On single “never”, Lindberg pairs dreamy, soaring vocals with her driving bass to skillfully build tension, producing one of the standouts of the record. On “boom boom”, she builds more tension with shifting dynamics, as she pulls back every time the rising action reaches a breaking point, slowing down the tempo rather than escalating it. Alternately, on “riot”, she uses sputtering guitars against her leading bass lines to craft a situation where the song always feels one note away from exploding, though it never quite does.
Lindberg’s range helps the record from feeling too stale. At times, she relies too much on repetition, causing some tracks to feel too familiar to stand out. But, when she shuffles the pieces of her puzzle, the songs are typically the stronger for it, especially the serene “long lonely winter”.
Throughout the record, Lindberg shows many different sides of herself, especially her expressive voice. Her entrancing vocals on the hypnotically repetitive “he fresh” barely register above a whisper, one of the softer, more sensual moments on the record. On the other hand, her voice stretches and strains on “white devil”, moving from softly spoken words to excited screaming. In an interview with DIY Mag, Lindberg explained that she never enjoyed her raspy singing voice, and her discomfort would cause her to try and emulate voices of singers she admired rather than stick to her own. “The challenge was to make my voice sound as much like me as possible,” she said of this album. “That was when I started to enjoy my voice more, and singing became easier.” By finding a lane that works for her, she is able to exude a confidence that informs her music.
Lindberg’s altering level of discomfort with her voice may be an underlying component of the tension that flows through the record. By consciously working through that discomfort, she is able to exude a taut control of her work, making something that feels meticulously thought-through while also sounding entirely human rather than mechanic. Lindberg may have been concerned that her voice didn’t sound classically trained, but its ragged edges help to add a genuine quality to her music that fits its raw qualities. In finding her voice, Lindberg is able to craft an impressive debut that does more than sound like a lesser version of her main band.
Essential Tracks: “Never”, “Long Lonely Winter”, and “Boom Boom”