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Album Review: Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher

3 min read
Photo: Good Machine PR

Jen Cloher’s self-titled record marks her fourth studio LP. Cloher’s bare back appears on the album artwork, clutching nothing but her guitar in a symbol of the openness in which she introspectively addresses her life throughout this honest collection.

 Forgot Myself is a delightful ode to the dissociative feeling of forgetting how to function in your own body, we’ve all done it – plodding around on autopilot – but until Jen Cloher tapped into it as a subject matter, it hadn’t ever sounded quite so poetic. Cloher’s distinctive conversational style makes much of this record more of a casual chat with a mate than an album made by a stranger.

Not only does Analysis Paralysis have one of the best song names in recent years, it’s also one of the suavest tracks you’re likely to hear. Cloher’s talkative tone sits perfectly atop guitar lines that will have you dreaming of the 60s like there’s no tomorrow. The track veers through multiple moods thought it’s duration, tracking the surly side to Cloher like a mood ring. But at 7 minutes and 46 seconds long, this changeable ebb and flow keeps it from becoming a burden on listeners.

On Regional Echo, disillusionment with the entire place in which she lives gets Cloher questioning just how achievable the Australian Dream is. Wondering if it’s better to remain living a humble existence than lose one’s mind trying to ascend the societal ladder. Jen Cloher may use subjects that many overlook as being of no importance, but this collection of songs stands out as a comforting reminder that even musicians go through the same meek troubles as the average person.

Strong Woman is an absolute album highlight, hearing a successful and confident woman singing about kissing girls and idolising Joan Jett is all tiny me would have adored in a track. Whilst I had to make do with the Sugababes then, I now have Jen Cloher to look up to as the Strong Woman referenced in the track’s title. It carries a powerful message of not questioning one’s strength of character in a world that is not made for women in any way, acting as an encouragement to be loud and take up space in a society that loves to shrink us all down.

The versatility of Cloher is such that she can go from feminist rock icon to a sombre acoustic singer songwriter. Loose Magic occupies the latter camp, highlighting a soft centre to Cloher who is more than a little rough around the edges. The drums and guitars feel significantly more live than on 99% of albums, and might have you turning around frantically to see if Cloher has turned up in your living room.

Dark Art is a soothing track about distance in relationships, and the struggles it creates. By addressing the sadder side of love, Cloher shows a strong emotional maturity that acknowledges its fate of having to struggle for her happiness. It’s a short ending to a record that is Autumnal in its cosy yet cold feel, imagine leaves falling off trees outside and fires keeping you warm and that’s how snug this album is.

Whereas her significant other; Courtney Barnett, focuses on the upbeat, Cloher is the other side of the coin. Taking listeners on a journey through her forest of self doubt and seas of distance, Jen Cloher opens her heart and soul right up for scrutiny whilst holding the world at arms length.