Canadian native Jenn Steeves has made herself at home in the tiny beach state of Goa – spending her time serenading her deepest emotions in open-air jams and live music nights. The fluidity of her music is analogous to the vast ocean that surrounds her; bright and warm sonic textures complemented by her fervent vocals.
She recently released her debut EP Sidelines last month – a collection of 5 ditties illuminating folk and singer-songwriter style music in their soundscapes with some synth-based electronica flavours sprinkled here and there. The EP credits Shantanu Sudarshan and Nikhil Mawkin for the drums and drum arrangement in two of the tracks respectively, The Lullaby Factory’s Chris Walter for mastering and Daniel Kagoo for the cover art.
This is Jenn’s experiment with pop music, having mostly worked in the folk realm before, and might I say that she has seamlessly executed what was expected of her bringing out her production chops alongside adept songwriting. The EP boasts dreamy, sentimental vibes throughout its playtime; soundscapes reminiscent of summer, sprite, and all that make you feel content and heard. Steeves is playful yet sensible in her delivery, but sensible – she knows exactly what she wants to say and how to say it in the best possible way. “Undertow” is a tribute to her country and folk roots, her acoustic guitar setting the foundation for the vocals and other instrumentals to stand on. Her vocals are mellow and heartfelt, as she looks back on the halcyon days with a lost love reminiscing about all the things that were left unsaid. “Digging it up from the grave/ These are the things we never said” she croons. “The Circle” is dark and brooding displaying a very different side to the musician as she shifts from her usual playful tones to adopt a more serious one. Steeves is contemplative, crooning about a repressed pain that she’s finally ready to let go of.
In “Highway 97” Steeves has adopted a more pop-rock-based sound palette with electric guitar embellishments marking the catchy point of the track. Steeves croons about redemption and the importance of accepting things as they are because “everything looks better from far away”. This was my favourite in the EP as I related more to it both sonically and lyrically. “Dream” is pensive yet hopeful with a rumbling background drone guiding the track to its climax. Steeves croons about the longing for love and simpler times in the past, which are all the things that only exist in her dreamscapes now. She is melancholic and afraid to “be the one who loved the most” and I guess, aren’t we all in some way? Her words hit right where it hurts but also provide comfort – that we are not alone in the way we feel. “All That I Wanted” is by far the liveliest track in the EP boasting a top-notch arrangement and songwriting chops. Every element fits so well together and the result is this well-crafted and seamlessly produced piece.
Sidelines may be Steeve’s first time working as a producer (along with Abhishek Mathur of Plan 17) but it isn’t her first time as a songwriter – a strength that gets highlighted quite well in the EP. She is an adroit songwriter and she communicates that with aplomb, bringing out a record that not only reflects her caliber as a seasoned musician but also sets her apart as someone who is not afraid to be vulnerable and honest through her art. I would say, go listen to Sidelines and you won’t be disappointed really.