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If you aren’t familiar with the name Jackie Lynn, you’d be forgiven for assuming she’s already a star: the self-assured, seen-it-all torch singer swagger on display throughout her latest album Jacqueline certainly gives the impression of a worn road warrior who’s really lived out the tales of love and decay she’s relating in song. But Jackie Lynn isn’t a star or even a real person; she’s an alter-ego created by artist Haley Fohr, also known as Circuit Des Yeux, originally a solo project (see 2016’s Jackie Lynn EP) and embodied here once again by Fohr, but this time with the help of a four-piece backing band made up of Cooper Crain, Rob Frye and Dan Quinlivan; aka Bitchin’ Bajas.
As a result of the expanded cast of players, Jacqueline is not only an extension of the themes Fohr explored on the Jackie Lynn EP but an amplifying of them, both conceptually and sonically. Putting aside the gimmicky storyline (female long-haul truck driver on the road, visiting dive bars, living the life, etc.), what is most notable about Jacqueline is its musical depth, achieved via a meticulous patterning of disparate sounds that never feels labored over, whether they’re skimming shimmery disco, drifting on dreamy strings, swimming in twangy melancholy, or dipping a toe into unexpected tonal modalities—sometimes all in the same song (“Little Black Dress”). Though Jacqueline features tunes with plenty of straightforward synthesized swing suitable for a party (try the funky “Diamond Glue” or the glammy “Sugar Water”), there’s enough cocooned ear candy and “recorded in stereo” wizardry to make headphone listening essential to appreciate the many layers of arrangement that have gone into these songs. Fohr’s regal vocals remain the star, however, and like a country-fried Celine Dion emoting in the glow of a single spotlight, she leads us through the narrative of Jackie Lynn’s life on the road with a kind of self-possessed regality that grows ever more leonine as she enunciates her poetic, imagery-laden lyrics. “The moon is my incubator,” Fohr recites solemnly on the Pentangle-ish “Traveler’s Code of Conduct,” her voice brimming with emotion that fairly melts into the mix. With so many influences at play, it is hard to peg exactly what to characterize Jacqueline as—is it pop? Is it Americana? Is it neo-folk? Is it synthwave? In a way it is all of them, and thus a grand expression of American music perfectly suited for our meta-post-modern era.