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Album Review: Jessica Lea Mayfield – Make My Head Sing

2 min read

Ohio-based singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield ventures beyond her folk roots on her third album, Make My Head Sing. Influenced by grunge, alternative rock and heavy metal, this was produced by Mayfield with husband Jesse Newport and marks her first studio effort without the input of The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - Make My Head SingOpener Oblivious is wonderfully filthy and revolting. Mayfield’s angelic monotone cuts through the death, decay and despair of the wailing, discordant guitars and thumping drums that sink with every beat. This track is almost as intense as anything that Black Sabbath and Deep Purple have done. Fleetwood Mac’s The Green Manalishi (before Judas Priest sped it up) and I’m So Afraid (at least the slower, drawn-out live versions) appear to be a few inspirations.

Mayfield adds a witchy twist on her relaxed musical style on I Wanna Love You and Standing In The Sun, which remind listeners of Stevie Nicks’ lost gem Blue Lamp. Both are catchy singalongs with gliding, melodic riffs that make listeners want to sway and wave their arms to the beat. The latter is a glorious dose of pop whose warm harmonies and lyrics signal rejuvenation.

The rockier stuff moves towards the decadent, devilish and deviant. The unnerving contrast between the processed, crunchy guitars and Mayfield’s innocent, spacey vocals on Pure Stuff works. Mayfield’s disconnect against the climactic, rapid-fire, pizzicato riffs of Unknown Big Secret is also effective. However, the bouncy Do I Have The Time sounds like bad karaoke as Mayfield’s voice does not mesh well at all with the instrumental. Anything You Want has the band overwhelming Mayfield, causing her attempts to play a femme fatale and tease her audience to fade into the background.

Mayfield is most successful on her chilled midtempos. The highway-appropriate No Fun (despite its blistering, screeching guitars) and the desolate, post-hangover regret of Party Drugs (the first song written and recorded for this album) are fitting as a cooler, carefree, retro sound is back in vogue thanks to artists like Lana Del Rey. The reflective, folky closer Seein Starz exceeds expectations despite its tacky title, with its delicate vocals, lilting guitar riffs and subdued, summery synths.

Make My Head Sing works best on the softer songs that are closer to Mayfield’s usual musical style and truly reflect the album title. Mayfield does not sound quite as convincing on the rockier, heavier material, but should tap into more of this side on future releases.