Album Review: Jess Williamson – Cosmic Wink (Mexican Summer)
Texas singer-songwriter Jess Williamson releases her sweet, love-laced album Cosmic Wink.
Reading like a youthful debut novel, Cosmic Wink covers transitions in her personal life, the greying fluff around her dog Frankie’s soppy eyes, and an all-encompassing love which bursts through every page.
Opener ‘I See the White’ is inspired by aforementioned Frankie. The passing of Williamson’s beloved pet showed her just how little time we have on this Earth; with breezy acoustics, tentative drums and a delightfully hooky chorus, she forces us to accept we’re not immortal, and certainly not invincible. ‘Awakening Baby’ charts love’s first blossom, from Williamson’s sweet words swaying like tall grass in a summer breeze (“Your hair in my bed is regarded as a relic / My past and my future envy me,”) to the warm, Spanish flavoured guitar tones. It’s the kind of track you’ll always come back to, in rain or shine.
‘White Bird’ has an air of effortless cool, with a simple yet memorable chorus reflecting on the stress of upheaval and starting anew (“Be kind to me / This is not my city”). Slick drum beats interspersed with perky strums of the electric guitar lift Williamson’s layered voice, which croons and cradles her words in a Patti Smith-esque style. Soft acoustics flicker like a waning candlelight in slow burner, ‘Wild Rain’. The track marks a sizeable shift in tone, with crashing drums and brushing synths trapping us in a thunderstorm of self-doubt and uncertainty: “You say there’s two women / Living inside of me / One’s doubt and desire / She’s our enemy.”
The dark cloud looming over Williamson’s euphoria continues into ‘Thunder Song’. Her delicate coos and chuckles have turned into desperate pleas (“Who do you love?”) as her mounting self-doubt encompasses her sound. Heavier drum beats and crashing cymbals emphasise the sense of yearning, frustration and tingling jealousy. ‘Mama Proud’ has an intoxicatingly catchy feel, adding jazzy drums, multiple synth textures and a prodding bassline into the mix. A softer and much more understated track, it swims like a gentle river current.
‘Dream State’ is a lovely example of classic soft rock, enhancing Williamson’s sultry vocals with melodic guitar twangs, while ‘Forever’ feels much more abstract. Hints of her folky roots dip in and out between reverberative swells and ricocheting vocals. The true epic is the album closer that brings the cosmic very much into the real. ‘Love On The Piano’ embraces the all-pervasive sensation of a new love, which permeates every aspect of the track with ecstasy and delight (“Something in your eyes / Means I’m home when I’m homeless”). A gentle acoustic trickle and graceful piano is all that’s needed to accompany Williamson’s delicate voice.
Jess Williamson has enriched the art of writing love songs with new insight and a sense of real humaneness. Cosmic Wink certainly feels very rooted in the real world, and thankfully lacks the common clichés many songwriters fall into when using love as a basis for music production. While it may be a little saccharine for some tastes, I absolutely relished in the pretty nostalgia of Williamson’s shimmering third album.