The State of Georgia
Leeds-based majesty, bursting with otherworldly wonder. Miss Jakubiak's moniker may suggest weird evocations of The Peach State; with a song title of morbid seduce. The only certain truth is this: prepare to be mesmerised.
Reaper is available at:
The album The State of Georgia is available at:
TODAY my mind is occupied- once more- with questions of Yorkshire...
as well as band formations. I have alluded to Yorkshire in recent reviews, and my mind keeps coming back to the subject. Ever since I encountered the likes of Cuckoo Records and its current stable including Little Violet, Annie Drury and Amber States; I have been waxing lyrical about the nature of talent that can be found in the county. Even between the clan of musicians in the aforementioned label; as well as some great bands and acts like Issimo (based in Bradford), a positive tsunami of potential future-talent is arriving. It is not just the concentration of quality: it is also the unexpected diversity as well. Outside of Yorkshire there is not a lot of swing music and doo-wop being produced- aside from established acts such as Caro Emerald. Between Little Violet and Cissie Redgwick, there are others whom are promising some golden evocations of the '20s-'40s. Some fantastic folk and indie bands are making moves around Wakefield and Sheffield, and blues rock; reminiscent of the 1960s/'70s and The White Stripes are being championed. Of course there is a lot more still: stunning solo pop; jazz and blues solo work, as well as electro pop tunes afoot. It should perhaps not come as a bit shocker that a lot of range and challenging music is present in Yorkshire. Between the inspiring and gorgeous landscapes, through to charming towns and cities, there is less hostility and suffocation, than in built-up areas such as London. I have been trying to find a correlation between music productivity and quality, and location; arriving at the conclusion that where you are based and what is around you, has an affect on your output and inspiration. It seems that the further north you travel, the best sounds you will hear. Being based in the south I always try and defend the acts based here; yet feel that there is a bit of a glut and cessation of incredible music: perhaps a mass relocation is required? Anyway, The State of Georgia are proving my point (about Yorkshire) pretty well; and it is the 'formation' and make-up of the band, that gets my thoughts racing. In the market at the moment, new acts tend to be somewhat unisex. By this, I mean that the groups are either all-male or all-female (usually the former); where as solo talent tends to be a little underwhelming or predictable. By and large, if you hear a solo artist; their voice or sound does the talking: rarely both. If you are faced with a band, their tones are a little predictable; lacking in any ethereal touches. When I encounter female talent, whether solo, or with backing certain thoughts crop up. I wonder about the song writing, and whether the themes will be deeply personal and predictable, or whether poetic and surreal elements will be introduced: think of Laura Marling as the current epitome of how this should be done. Does the talent have the song writing chops of your Marlins, P.J. Harvey, as well as older idols such as Joni Mitchell, or will their lines and thoughts be too twee; too familiar, and composed of little focus or remembrance. Another thought concerning the overall sound comes to mind- including the vocal performance. It is too easy to copy the likes of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Adele: going for huge vocals and emotion, supporting lyrics that tend not to be overly quote-worthy. It is a practise that is being done more and more; and with cockroach traps such as The Voice encouraging this sort of deplorable artistry; finding something captivating is becoming harder. If you are more folk-influenced; acoustic guitar, twangy/gravelled vocals may be preferred; wrapped around sharp narrations of love and itinerant travelogues, taking in smoky bars, windswept deserts and smoky-eyed harlots. Away from the compartmentalisation and balkanisations: the 'cool kids' competing against the 'U.S.-wannabes'; my ear and mind's eye always looks for something more haunting; more cerebral and much more affecting. Finding such hallowed and rarefied sound is a challenge; but the rewards are so much more satisfying. With the likes of Anna von Hausswolff turning in haunting epics and Kate Bush-esque anthems, people are turning their attentions and focus to this side of music. If you are capable of unleashing a staggering voice; tying in U.K. and U.S. influences, and producing a majestic and mythical sound; then a great deal of fascination will be created. If you are capable of doing this, and are based in Yorkshire; well, it sort of ties my two points together quite succinctly...
The State of Georgia consists of Georgia Jakubiak; the Siren-esque and alluring front woman and centre. Augmenting and supporting her bewitching sounds are Dave Knowlson on drums; Mark Crossley on guitar and 'Graingerboy' on syths. Our heroine comes out of Leeds, and is a gorgeous and striking young woman; intelligent and likeable. She is not your overly-cutesy or anodyne pop idol, nor the elusive and overly-shy folk artist. With a confidence and passion for music, she is instantly relatable and populist; not giving too much away (in terms of biography), yet giving just the right amount away- ensuring that fascination and intrigue are sustained. Mixing alternative pop sounds with ethereal and haunting movements, Jakubiak and her talented men are embodying a rostrum of new talent, whom understand the importance and relevance of getting a song inside of your head; and not letting it shift! Like Sweden's von Hausswollff, whom mixes her Kate Bush-esque voice, alongside sweeping and anthemic organs and funereal moves; The State of Georgia have a similar eye for sweeping and epic songs, as well as more intimate and no-less-fascinating numbers. Jakubiak counts Bush as one of her influences; putting her alongside Tori Amos, and the U.S.'s Regina Spektor. Our heroine has a voice that you can compare to the aforementioned legends: she possess the same degree of beauty and otherworldliness. This year has been a busy one for The State of Georgia, beginning with the release of the 10-track album Synesthesia. The word 'synesthesia' relates to a neurological process, whereby stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. Sound-colour synesthesia transforms music and sounds into fireworks, colours and shapes; the individual experiences quite an overwhelming and memorable experience. It is perhaps an appropriately-prescient name for the album, which covers huge territories over 10 tracks; sweeping and romantic strings (The Beast) mix with balletic piano (I Can't Help Myself); distorted vocals (Earth Angel) can be heard with Hound of Love-esque grandeur (Hitched). There is barely room for breath; steps vary in terms of length and direction, and the abiding sensation is one of impressed breathlessness. From Deaf Dumb & Blind's scattering and exhilarating opening rush, through to Harmony Song's multi-layered and haunting vocals, it is a record that is alive with ambition and potency. Our heroine and her musical comrades do not let predictability become a factor, as each track portrays a different personality and projection; meaning that by the L.P.'s plaintive and captivating final moments, a great deal of longing is left, leaving one thinking: when can I hear more? Deaf Dumb & Blind was released in December of last year, and has gained a raft of new fans for Jakubiak; whom is collecting a growing swell of fans through social media. Live performances are being spoken of with sighs of delight, and a solid reputation is forming. It is no small part due to the attention and passion that has been put into each song; the craft and solid ethic that has made each track memorable and unbreakable. The State of Georgia have a knack for a memorable title, as well as a talent for an original and striking album cover. On the cover of Synesthesia, our front-woman is drawn in black-and-white three times. With one representation covering the mouth; another the eyes, and the third the ears, there is a lot of curious intrigue and mystery contained within. Aside from red lipstick and red nail polish, the scene is awash with greys, blacks and whites and it is a stirring and intoxicating image; one that leaves you wonder what it means, and what was being said, considering the very studied and carefully-composed tableaux. It is details like these, which most solo acts and bands negate, that gives Jakubiak and the boys an huge edge. As I delved further into the nuances and layers of the album, it was the fourth track- Reaper- which compelled me to sit down, and take stock.
It is with a creeping, mood-setting arpeggio piano coda, that begins Reaper's intentions. Displaying some of Kate Bush's sonic influence; in the way that beauty and tension is teased from the piano: notes stutter, flow and stop- creating a strange and striking atmosphere. The capturing piano suggests a lot of what is to come; as well as building images in your mind. In the way that the into. builds and seduces; flies and dives, there is somewhat of a romantic evocation- in my mind at least- that is rain-swept and cold; our heroine steps out of the light of a doorway; a perplexed and inscrutable look on her face. The potency of the mood which the piano creates, summons up filmic scenes; dark and light paradoxes, and epic sweeps, all at once- without a single word having being sung. It is the combination of 1985 Kate Bush, and the majesty of Tori Amos' From the Choirgirl Hotel: the seductive charm-cum dark-edged storm that embodies the title; causing an intoxicating aroma. From the elliptical and tenderness of the piano comes quite a sharp rebuke. We are presented with a pause; your ears strain, wondering what is coming next; and then it hits: a thundering and tribal drum smash that continues (toned down slightly), enlivening the senses and making you sit upright. On Portishead's Third, the band juxtaposed the ukulele-lit track Deep Water, with the menacing and psychotic Machine Gun. It is a shift that is quite as sharp, but from a calming and mood-setting beginning; the introduction of a pervasive and punching percussive smash is quite a (pleasant) surprise. The drum and piano pair with one another; moving inside of each other's sound; augmenting the tension and beauty and keeping you hanging on- wondering just what is going to happen next. After 1:39 of some masterful build-up that ranges from syncopated diving; a sudden track stop (worthy of Queens of the Stone Age); swaying and seductive breaths, and balletic dance. You are pulled in all sorts of directions; as a projection shines from your mind. The rain-addled street and its neon lights causes our heroine to run through the street; in the dead of night, searching for a shelter from the storm. Reaching upon a charming but under-lit bar, she walks in; wipes the rain from her face, and approaches the barman. The song has such an evocative sense, that when the opening line approaches: "I don't do things by halves if given half a chance"; a second scene begins to make its way to the brain. If the enchanting intro. reminds you of Kate Bush at her very best, the vocal has a different sensation. There are the breathy lows, yet Jakubiak is more composed; keeping her voice straighter and more serious, in order to make her words stick clear in the mind. The lyrics switch between ambition and passion: "I play so we can dance"; and unflinching honesty: "I don't fear the reaper so I definitely don't fear you". There is a strong and steely eye that our heroine possesses; she is someone whom wants to do what she does best, and not let anything get in the way. Whether the governance of her dissatisfaction is aimed towards a lover (former or current), friend or whether it is purely fictional; a sense of conviction, as well as anger can be heard: the emotions definitely come from a very real place. As with the rush that was experienced at the end of the song's intro, another explosion is elicited as our heroine asks: "Who ooooo do you think you are? ". As firm and impassioned as Jakubiak's voice is, there is a sweetness and softer edge to it. Where as Amos and Spektor are influences, our heroine has a similar quality to her voice; yet makes her tones and style very much her own. The band are army-like in their assault. Knowlson is consistently powerful and potent; able to keep a relentless pace going through most of the track. The bass and guitar work is tight and solid; adding flecks of electricity and fire into the mix. In fact The Cribs' Ryan Jarman plays guitar on the track, lending his reputable indie edges; adding an extra layer to the song. When the "Who ooooo" codas are presented; Jakubiak elongates and coos; holding the notes and rising ever up. It is when the line's second half ("do you think you are?") is delivered, that some U.S. inflection and shades come through; its sound and evocativeness has a mixture of the modern-day indie scene, as well as '70s/'80s female pop. After the rush and persistence of the previous verse; where our heroine was filled with scorn and accusatory intent, another piano line is upon us; proving a sea change and calm (after the storm). It is said that our heroine is "possessed by the devil of music", and she "won't stop 'til I'm dead". The lines are delivered with calm; everything is matter-of-fact and composed, without the need for histrionics or over-emoting. In the current scene of the female songwriter, there are few whom have a similar ear for conviction and potency. Too many songs are either overly-twee or sedative: there are too few that actually invigorate and intrigue as much as Reaper. For the likes of Florence and the Machine and Adele- contemporaries whom mix powerful voices with multi-layered compositions- their lyrics and themes usually stick too closely to love and first-person narratives. Jakubiak and the boys back up the ghostly, echoed vocal (starting at 3:45) with a propulsive and spirited backing: crepuscular and stormy, with lighter edges. Just when you think you are settling in for a calming ending, the haunting vocal ramps up to the point of bursting; before the chorus is brought back in; riding to the end of the song. The overall impression that is left is quite indelible: the feeling that something genuinely memorable has been performed. Like contemporaries von Hausswolff, The State of Georgia has a talent for building up huge atmosphere and emotion from the very beginning. Where as the Swedish counterpart employs organ and a Gothic crawl, Jakubiak uses piano; weaving and tempting notes out. The lyrics are diverse and original; drawing in a sense of rebellion and steadfast. The chorus- with its acidic finger-pointing- is perhaps the most memorable facet, employing a catchy pop sensibility, yet enlivened with the mystique and flavours of Jakubiak's idols Regina Spektor and Tori Amos. The composition is completed with power and strength; tenderness and feather-light which combined and juxtaposed, creates a big impression.
Reaper is a track that takes your thoughts to some rather unique places. My bar/heroine/stormy tale sticks clear- though I am not sure of an ending. The song's strengths lie in the way that it can remind you of some of the '70s and '80s greats; mix it together with a modern relevance, yet have a very unique and original voice: one that deserves to be heard and heralded widely. The State of Georgia's Synesthisia is chocked to the brim with myriad sounds and diversions; packed with nuance and memorability. Jakubiak is an impressively strong talent, whom mixes intelligent and sharp lyrics, with an educated ear for melody and evocation. Her voice is striking: lilting and seductive when required; able to rise and belt in the upper reaches, which can be ranked amongst some of the best voices today. The album will stand up to a lot of repeated listens, and shows a young woman with an ambitious agenda. Her band are by no means second fiddle. Each member is tight and professional, able to inject a huge amount of mood and colour into the palette. I was especially pleased by the percussive work in Reaper; synths and guitars come alive and at the forefront throughout many tracks; and guitar, bass and piano have their moments to shine throughout. For all the hoopla surrounding current and established talent from Kanye West to Laura Marling; it is nice to see a new act whom are capable of stealing your attention. The State of Georgia fill a niche in terms of their sound and range, and have turned in an album with no filler: just challenging and great music. For too long there has been a reliance on giving too much airtime and consideration to the undeserving. The U.S.-named; Yorkshire-based talent will be busy throughout this year; and I hope that another album is in the back of Jakubiak's thoughts. For now, take in the power of Reaper and investigate The State of Georgia further. It is music that will speak to everyone, yet...
BE equalled by few.