TRACK REVIEW: Jessica Rotter- Porch Song



Jessica Rotter




Porch Song





Porch Song is available at:

RELEASED: March 2016



Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Plains, Jessica Rotter

The album, Plains, can be pre-ordered here:


AS I start to scale the solo artists back a bit...

I am excited by my featured artist.  Before I come to her, I wanted to look at production values in music; the possibilities within the Folk genre- with a little about diversification and music success.  When I encountered a new band/solo artist I always find the music is a little too polished.  Artists have that central fear:  if it is not shiny and gleaming (a song) will not get radio play.  When it comes to clarity and decipherability- hearing the lyrics and instruments- it is important to ensure the track is mixed and produced effectively- ensuring the listeners do not miss out on anything.  I understand this consideration.  What I am desperate to hear are more artists that create something real and under-produced.  You do not need to make it live-sounding and completely bare:  just strip some of the gloss and reduce a song to its bare essentials.  Music has the potential to grip and seduce people:  illicit huge emotional reactions and speak to them.  I feel- if you load your song with shine- then it can be harder to hear that rawness and naturalness come through.  It is like someone heavily made-up and cosmetically-altered:  you have less of a person; more of an experimentation.  It may seem like an odd theme to raise- trust me:  I’ve raised weirder- but I long to discover a musician that sounds completely honest and genuine.  I have discovered a lot of bands (over the last few weeks) that have a variety of sounds and ideas.  Every time I witness a track, there is a very professional and glistening impression.  Very slick and seamless:  where is the reality and emotion?  I have been investigating music from the ‘70s and ‘80s:  some of the best bands at the time and some classic albums.  I am not sure whether it is a sign of the modern age:  artists seem to have lost what made music special in the first place.  Whether the intense competition or studio costs- getting the most for your money- has led to this oversite:  music is becoming too polished and over-produced.  It is a general assessment- there are a lot of artists that do not fall into this territory- but definitely something in it.

Before I continue my point, let me introduce Jessica Rotter to you:

Jessica Rotter is able to transcend creative boundaries and defy what’s expected of a modern female musician. The songstress’ voice has been heard across multiple genres, from movies, TV shows and commercials to backing vocals and collaborations with other artists—all in addition to her original songs. Rotter describes herself as a “musical storyteller” and is just as comfortable using her voice in a major feature film (credits include Pitch Perfect 1 & 2 and Frozen) as she is performing one of her original songs live. Following the success of charting #1 on HypeMachine with her mashup of Stay/Animal with Emily Colombier, Rotter is embarking on her most powerful and ambitious project to date; the full length release of “Plains.” Produced by Cazz Brindis and mixed by Scott M. Smith (Carole King, John Mayer, Katy Perry), the 11 track record is breathtakingly stunning and cinematic. Plains will be released April 22nd nationwide

Jessica Rotter’s music has that earthiness to it:  you can hear every breath and feel like you are in the room with her.  Were the songs to be fed through the machine- all processed and fake- the music would not have that heart and meaning.  It is impressive to hear someone who brings music back-to-basics and has that consideration.  It is no surprising Rotter has amassed a loyal fan-base:  her followers are among the most dedicated and passionate you will find.  Folk is a genre that has its critics and doubters.  I am someone who treads lightly and cautiously.  Just yesterday, I was reviewing James Edge and the Mindstep and their track, On a Red Horse.  Folk was employed as bedrock:  the On a Red Horse.  Folk was employed as bedrock:  the Five Leaves Left-esque sounds Edge played were the focal point.  Not leaving things at that; the composition employed Psychedelia, Jazz and Alternative strands- the entire composition was improvised by musicians with very little direction.  Some basic strings- violins, viola; double bass and cello- combined with guitar and drum to create something stunning.  Folk was the starting point yet colours and contours were layered:  the results very much speak for themselves.  The danger comes when you get Pure Folk.  What I mean by this is the sound of Nick Drake, Neil Young etc.:  those acts that have inspired many and changed the face of music.  They have come and conquered- and should not try and be topped- but have a very distinct sound.  In addition to being incredible songwriters- you can add Joan Baez and Laura Marling in there- they have their own voice and style.  I feel too many (folk artists) are trying to replicate them.  There are a lot of dull Folk acts out there:  a very tepid voice and gently-strummed guitar; no real flair or originality to be found.  Luckily, Jessica Rotter has enough beauty and diversity in her music to push it beyond boundaries and predictability.  Not only do the slight-produced and tender-hearted songs resonate but the lyrics hit home:  immersive stories that bring the listeners in and paint some rather wonderful pictures.  Rotter has already cemented success and reputation in the music industry.  Not only has she gathered a large fanbase- that keeps rising by the week- but her music has been used on T.V. and film.  The L.A.-based musician will release her 11-track album, Plains, in a few weeks.  It is an album that came about after a (successful) Pledge Music campaign.  The fans and followers showed faith and were keen to get the album financed- signs that Rotter writes music that people NEED to hear.  Folk is getting a lot of criticism- not enough artists pushing boundaries and writing original music- but Rotter is definitely an exception.  I have mixed feelings when it comes to advertising and music:  I hate adverts and avoid them at all costs.  One of the reasons is they are hysterically unfunny and embarrassing:  the music is often overlooked; distilled by the cringe-worthy nature of the presentation.  I am a bit more positive when it comes to film and T.V. music.  The right song on a certain scene can have a profound effect on a human.  In a social media age- where we can often miss great artists- film and T.V. is a platform that allows us to discover some terrific musicians.  Rotter is not in the game for money and fame:  she wants to inspire fellow musicians and push Folk past its stuffy reputation and limitations.  I was going to talk about L.A. artists- but have covered the subject too often- but I have heard few Los Angeles-based Folk acts.  I will follow Rotter closely and ensure I get her album, Plains.  Every song and moment coms from a young woman who adores music and the effect it can have on people.  I hope she comes to the U.K. some time and plays to the crowds here.  I know she will have a lot of support here and will find willing venues.

Plains will show Jessica Rotter in full flight:  the exploitation and representation of her talents and abilities.  If you have been following her- and familiar with her work- you would have heard some of Plains’ songs already.  The album’s 11 tracks were recorded and produced at various times over the last five years.  Not only do the tracks sound completely natural and seamless- whether recorded last year or several years before- but there are so many different sides and sounds.  Rotter does not just stick with a tried-and-tested Folk sound:  she incorporates so many contrasting elements and makes everything sound natural and deeply personal.  I know Rotter wrote Plains’ songs when her life was in a bad place:  she was searching for something and looking for clarity.  Rotter receives emails from fans- saying how much the music means to them- so here is an artist that connects with people and can tap into a very spiritual place.  I can see Rotter growing and developing as an artist.  Even though this is her debut album, it sounds completely solid and professional.  There are no nerves and uncertain tracks:  each song brims with authority and assuredness.  Although her grandfather wrote for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin:  the young American is out on her own and proving her merits.  Hooking with Cazz Brindis (producer) and Scott M. Smith (who has worked with Carole King and John Mayer; he mixes Plains) you have a team that brings the best from Rotter.  Emerging from a musical family; it is no wonder you can hear other artists emerge in Jessica Rotter.  ‘60s and ‘70s musicians like The Beatles, The Mamas & the Papas sit with The Beatles and Carole King- musicians that would have been in heavy rotation in her childhood home.  Modern acts like Lykke Li and Bon Iver count as influences:  if you are inclined towards any of these acts; you should seek Rotter out and hear those idols come through.  To be fair, Jessica Rotter is a standalone artist who only sprinkles the faintest suggestion of other acts.  Having had a hard last few years- seeking fulfillment and identity- and experimenting with music:   Plains is the sound of a woman that wants HER voice to come through on record.  Each of the 11 songs shows a new concern and story:  every track will stick in the head and compel you to revisit it.  Porch Song is a track that flowed organically.  The swansong to Plains:  it is a song that has already garnered a lot of heady praise and wonderful reviews.

The opening seconds to Porch Song see Rotter extend her voice and open her lungs.  The gorgeous, call-across-the-oceans declaration is filled with immense power, beauty; spine-tingling grace.  I am not sure what affected the song- and how it was created- but our heroine calls out to a subject.  Whether a friend or former sweetheart; you can hear the dedication and commitment in the song.  Having the chance to “breathe easy”; the song’s lead seems to be in a bad place.  Maybe affected by stresses and the perils of love:  there is that need for a helping hand and support.  Luckily, our heroine is at hand and willing to provide a comforting heart.  At the earlier stages, you are intoxicated by that sensual and breathless vocal.  It is almost an acapella performance:  there is very little backing; the sparse production allows the voice to crack through the clouds and shine brightly.  Backing herself on vocals- you get a multi-tracked effect- you keep guessing and speculating.  The hero/heroine is “dreaming alone” and needing a safety net.  Gentle, carefully strummed acoustic guitar accompany Rotter who provides one of more arresting and captivated vocals to date.  At every stage- when the lyrics are revealed- you start to picture who is being represented.  In a way, Porch Song is a song for everyone:  a universal message that each listener can relate to.  Few artists are as open and supportive as Rotter:  a human who throws her arms open to catch the struggling figure.  Whatever has got in the way- and the song’s lead is fighting against- our heroine has some sage words and consistent support.  Life is not so hard when you “let your head/fall on my shoulder”.

The vocal remains passionate and firm:  never needlessly flying and getting away with itself.  Despite the relaxed and committed delivery, the listener is always hooked and invested.  Rotter showcases a blend of Pop and Country tones; sitting inside Folk and Alternative strands:  it is a complex, rich and luxuriant voice that delivers shivers with every note.  Each new revelation builds clarity and definition.  When our heroine asks (the song’s lead) to rest their heart in hers:  I got thinking relationship issues were being attested.  Maybe the song looks at a relationship that has gone through strains but starting to gain traction.  Perhaps we are looking at a man that has kept things bottled-in and not revealed his feelings.  Whatever your interpretations, you will find a lot of mystery and fascination within Porch Song.  Jessica Rotter knows the truth but I do not want to know it:  I am happy in my assertions and loved delving into the evocative and heartfelt lyrics.  When singing “Free your mind”- layered vocals backed by a raw production- it is like you are hearing the heroine up-close.  The song has such a direct and urgency to it:  every vocalisation comes through the speaker and gets straight inside the head.  Throughout Plains; Rotter explores more upbeat and fast sounds:  here, she is at her most explorative and tender best.  Our struggling fighter- be they a lover or close friend- has their mind tangled and is in a mess.  Rotter is close by and is always keen to be a good friend and confidante.  I know Rotter is inspired by the Earth and the world around us; her songs emerge from broken relationships and finding salvation.  Porch Song is one of the most memorable and stunning creations across her debut L.P.  There are no peripheries and baubles:  just one voice and guitar projecting immense beauty and shiver.  If Folk artists- who play songs similarly have been accused of being dull and limited- I know plenty of examples- the same cannot be said of Rotter.  Her voice sounds like no other and is one of the strongest, most beautiful out there.  After providing comfort and dedication- to her wandering hero- you get emotional and sonorous strings:  they provide a mid-way point of reflection and contemplation.

Similar in nature with Pray for Rain- a song that ends with a cool and airy tone- Porch Song seems like a natural companion.  Rotter has ounces of charm and can win every listener in with ease.  That voice never escapes my mind:  after listening to Porch Song I had to go back and let that beauty and passion get into my soul.  Given the vocal and its richness; I am fascinated to learn more of the woman behind it.  On the outside there are obvious observations:  immensely beautiful and impeccably styled; it is what’s inside that really appeals.  A mature and intelligent soul from someone so young:  music can learn a thing or two from L.A.’s Jessica Rotter.  Porch Song continues to amaze and strike to the very last notes.  The simplicity of the lyrics- honest, earnest and universal- can be extrapolated by all.  We have all been in that position when a friend/contact needs loyal arms:  Jessica Rotter has penned a song that can be loved by everyone who hears it.  Whether the subtle, tender acoustic guitar wins you; if it is the quotable and direct lyrics- for me, it is always going to be the voice.  It has been a while since I have encountered a singer that makes an impression with such authority and conviction.  Supported by a terrific producer and mixing engineer:  Porch Song shows just what promise Plains holds.

Make sure you get Plains when it is released on April 22nd.  It is the result of intense hard work and a lot of personal revelations.  Songs have been compelled by a number of things:  perhaps wrestling with love in uncertain times (Pray for Rain) or the restless moments in a relationship (Let Me Go).  With each track, you understand a bit more (about Rotter).  The heroine has a tender soul and is keen to share it with the public.  Tracks- featured throughout Plains- explore love and the contrasts existent.  Some songs have that positive and celebratory tone; others are more introspective and heartbroken.  At no point do you feel bogged down and depressed by the music:  that sensational voice and musicality raises each track to the heavens.  Porch Song is the latest track from Plains:  one of the most stunning and memorable tracks from Jessica Rotter.  Our heroine has been recording music for many years now but seems at her most assured and confident here.  Maybe past events- falling in love and her current situation- has been particularly influential.  The material on Plains- and Porch Song especially- is the finest material she has crafted.  A lot of you will turn your noses up at Folk and assume it is a rather niche, particular sound.  I agree with that assessment, in part:  there are a lot of Folk artists that can compel you to put a bullet through the temple.   I am not sure what they expect- those that stick to the plaintive and narrow form of the genre- but those are musicians that will never get respect from me.  Jessica Rotter uses Folk as a template and expands it for her own measures.  On some tracks (in Plains) you get a Pop semblance:  sounds that will appeal and fit into the current mainstream.  Elsewhere, you get something more Rock/Indie flavoured.  Critics have noticed how cinematic and raw Rotter’s music is.  I cannot argue with this assertion.  No wonder her voice has been featured on Frozen and Pitch Perfect (both films).  I mentioned how there are too many over-produced songs in the modern scene.  It is a tendency that needs to be reversed and overhauled.  Once in a while, it is great hearing music that has the polish stripped away to showcase something very human and revealing.  L.A. keeps producing wonderful, scene-changing musicians, so I have high hopes for Jessica Rotter.  She does not need my patronage, of course:  her reviews and fan numbers speak for themselves.  Influenced by nature, the Earth and love:  all these elements come together in stunning, emotional music.  I feel Rotter- and the success she is finding- will inspire other musicians and lead to a new way of working.  Balking against the tendency to polish a song to the point of insanity:  the L.A. musician favours feel and a human touch over machine-fed productions.  Jessica Rotter has had a fascinating career and covered a lot of ground.  Having provided backing vocals for Carole King and Alicia Keys; conquering towns and cities- the young star is only just starting out.  I am excited to see how she develops and grows throughout 2016.  Plains is going to be much-reviewed and celebrated.  From there, Rotter will travel across the U.S. and take her music to the masses.  I would not be surprised to see (songs from Plains) feature in T.V. and film.  Whether you are aware of it or not:  you have probably heard a Jessica Rotter song somewhere.  She is a musician that writes universal songs that capture the heart and mind.  When she has done with the U.S.- seducing the home crowds- I hope there is room and money aside for the U.K.  If I got the chance to see/interview her- were she to swing through London- it would be great to see her in the flesh, up-close.  One of the most original and exciting female artists coming through right now:  I will follow Jessica Rotter’s career closely.  It is hard finding a musician that remains consistent and ever-evolving.  Too many artists come on strong and dissipate across time:  maybe squeezing a couple of albums out before fading out.  It is rare finding a musician that not only remains and improves but gets stronger with every record.  I can hear the confidence and commitment in Rotter’s new music:  she is at her most essential, inspired and compelling.  As the rain comes down- I think we have had summer in this country- you’ll be looking for something to bring some peace and beauty into the day.  With that said, sit back and allow Porch Song


TO wash the rain away.


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