We don't often have the time to explore the local music scene as much as we'd like. When we do, however, it's generally to focus on exceptional local talent -- and that is certainly the case when it comes to 22-year-old Denton chanteuse Jessie Frye.
Frye, who released her sophmore EP Tuesday, is a native of Arlington but now calls Denton her home. Since her 2008 EP The Delve, she's received a modest amount of press and played the last three years at both Austin's South by Southwest music festival and Denton's 35 Conferette.
Over the last two years she's been hard at work crafting her latest offering, a five-song EP dubbed Fireworks Child (available online here) that marks significant growth as an artist from the slow-tempo, heavy piano-laden tracks of her first record into a more polished and mature, up-tempo and radio-friendly offering. Don't read radio-friendly as a negative, these are songs you'll quickly be hearing in your head and humming on your drive to work for a very good reason. They're good, infectious songs with catchy hooks and great, sometimes abstract, lyrics.
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"The Delve was written with a sense of innocence. The piano is my heart, where I go to hear myself. So with my first release I wanted people to see that," said Frye. "The biggest difference about Fireworks Child is personal transitions. My life was changing. Plus I started playing guitar...and I felt this spark. It just worked. I saw my musical personality have potential blossoms where I never imagined. So, a level of confidence made it's way on to Fireworks Child. I am not as naive as I once was."
In short, the EP shows Frye has a lot of range and writes with primarily positive messages about seizing the moment, realizing your own potential and not letting yourself down, no matter how unfortunate things may seem. She preaches making the most of those "personal transitions."
On the EP, she drops out of the gate with Like a Light, an up-tempo song that's arguably the most radio-friendly of the lot, and therefore the most likely candidate to grab the interest of newbies. The contrast between the first and second track, Prepared, which is also the first single off of the EP, is unmistakable. Prepared is a well-executed, edgy, alt-rock cut that is a departure from the infectious poppy opener and light-years beyond The Delve.
"I chose Prepared as the first single because I wanted to surprise people," said Frye. "I wanted to show them that I can create really organic material (The Delve) and then do something completely opposite. To show people that you can't exactly peg me right now."
Of the final three tracks, Red Angel White Devil, Fortune Teller and Sleeping Tornadoes, two are slow, piano-driven numbers with Fortune Teller being the odd man out of those three. Yet, it's placement is ideal as it creates a nice flow between the tracks and never allows the piano-driven tracks to get too heavy and slow your senses. As much as she favors it, she trusts her instincts and doesn't wedge the piano in where it doesn't belong. This discipline gives the songs that are more piano-driven that much more poignancy.
"I like the fact that that not every song absolutely must have piano," said Frye. "It gives me (and the listener) room to digest the emotional intensity that I often put in songs that have piano. If both guitar and piano call to me, then why don't I listen, and just respond naturally to what the song needs?"
With its sultry delivery and slow progression of the back and forth arrangement between the piano and string instruments, Sleeping Tornadoes is probably my favorite track followed by the lighter Like a Light. That being said, Frye's EP is solid back to front and definitely worth more than a few listens.
Perhaps it's a bit autobiographical when Frye sings about "playing hide-and-seek with fate." Fate is bringing success and it's time for her to be found.
Jessie Frye will be playing Friday May 6 at Dan’s Silverleaf and Friday May 13 at LaGrange. You can both listen to and buy Fireworks Child and The Delve online at jessiefrye.bandcamp.com or at Mad World Records in Denton. Visit her website at http://www.jessiefrye.com/