Album Reviews

Mason Jennings – Minnesota

on September 29, 2011, 7:58am
61+kJihAfkL C+
Release Date

Usually when an artist makes an album celebrating how famous, successful, and happy they’ve become (ahem, Mike Skinner), it’s just not very good. It lacks the creative spark that comes from being lonely, drug-addicted, and depressed. So when singer-songwriter Mason Jennings announced an upcoming album about “home and heart,” I worried; especially since his last album, 2009′s Blood of Man, exemplified great songwriting as a result of anger and isolation. But Jennings has nine critically acclaimed albums under his belt for a reason: Even though Minnesota focuses on love and family, Jennings continues to scrutinize heartache and longing with his appealing, astute songwriting.

Jennings opens the album with the plea “Come home, bitter heart/Let go and love,” saturating the weighty pauses between austere piano chords with “fear and hate and doubt.” On “No Relief”, another pained, piano-driven song, he stretches his voice to wail about “the love that’s tearing [them] apart.” It’s reminiscent of the ragged scream in Blood of Man’s “The Field”, Jenning’s soliloquy as a father whose son was killed in battle.

Minnesota, on the other hand, falters when Jennings expresses himself in allegories. On the somewhat didactic “Wake Up”, alcoholic musician finally sobers up to the distant tune of a backing choir and gently repetitive guitars. And “Rudy”, whose medieval narrator expresses concern for his “family and [his] home” due to a king’s misdeeds, feels contrived, especially since Jennings sings so honestly on the rest of the album.

On “Clutch”, Jennings wonders, “What was so rough/Was it the freedom that freaked us out,” regarding a young relationship. The tempo builds as the images intensify, resulting in an irreverent, tambourine-stomping chorus. And a couple devoting their lives to each other reveals an endearing vulnerability on “Raindrops On the Kitchen Floor”, whose “What a Wonderful World”/”When I’m Sixty-Four” arrangement includes backing vocals by Jason Schwartzman. In the end, Jennings’ truthfulness more than makes up for Minnesota‘s minor setbacks.

Essential Tracks: “Clutch”, “Raindrops On the Kitchen Floor”, and “Bitter Heart”

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

September 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Mason Jennings is the absolute best singer-songwriter of the last 10 years. So much depth to each of his albums, and he has an unmatchable ability to capture emotions. I was kind of disappointed by the length of Minnesota (last year’s The Flood was much longer), but I heard that he recorded a lot more material than he actually released for this album; hopefully the follow-up comes out soon


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,812 other followers