Jealous Creatures, Little Heaven Big Sky

 Jealous Creatures, Little Heaven Big Sky

Once upon a time, I tried to write a screenplay for a road movie. It pretty much sucked, frankly, but the part of the process I found myself enjoying the most, weirdly, wasn’t the actual writing of the story but coming up with the imaginary soundtrack for my hypothetical movie. I had a ball trying to scrape together — in the pre-MP3, pre-Internet age, mind you — a cassette tape of songs that sounded to me like windswept, desolate, desert highways at night. None of it was country, per se, but a lot of it ended up sounding “Western,” at least to a point, and it was all great, great stuff.

Listening to Jealous Creatures’ debut full-length, Little Heaven Big Sky, I find myself right back there at my boombox, listening to tunes by Sand Rubies and Cowboy Junkies and excitedly dubbing them onto a tape right where they sounded best in the all-in-my-head story. On the band’s previous EP, there was a hint of Western-sounding loneliness, but here the Creatures have grabbed onto that with both hands and held it tight. The drifting, far-off guitars and Hirsch’s melancholy, sometimes bitter, Margo Timmins-like vocals make for excellent road music, just like that long-trashed tape of mine; the sound of the distant highway to Somewhere Else.

And like that tape, the music here isn’t “country,” at least not by any traditional definition — it veers far too off into rock territory, for one thing, like on opener “Resonate,” which makes me think of Elastica or the wholly-underrated mid-’90s band Magnapop. The guitars roar along with just the right amount of distortion; not enough to be over-the-top metal, but still enough bite to make it grab hold. Singer/guitarist Sarah Hirsch spits level verses full of bitter recrimination and dismissal over the top, coming off like a rootsier, rawer Aimee Mann.

From there the music rolls on like a diesel-fueled engine through the night, driving through the more cowpunk-sounding “Nothing To See Here” and the indie-rock roar of “Play Along” before taking a bombastic, peyote-vision detour into psychedelia with “Sunless Realm.” “Anywhere With You” is drifting and watery-sounding, showcasing a more vulnerable side to the band, while “If You Want To” is bouncy, swaying pop with a back-and-forth guitar line and underwater reggae-ish keys (courtesy of ex-Japanic keyboardist Rob Smith, who I’m glad to see back in a band again).

“Disappear For Me” is rambling and melancholy, more overtly country than anything to that point — it’s electrified but down-to-earth, like Sand Rubies’ “Interstate.” Then the band hits album highlight “Just A Memory,” which is similarly countrified but more fiery, with an almost Buxton-like melding of alt-country and straight-up indie-rock. The blazing guitars and Hirsch’s sweet-yet-sharp-edged vocals elevate the track into the realm of Songs to Put on Infinite Repeat, especially near the end, when the song somehow morphs into a Jesus & Mary Chain track.

Shifting again, “Baby For You” is more sultry and murky, alluring and threatening at the same time, and then the band revs up again for rocker “Such A Tease”; I freaking love the bassy weight of the guitars here and the way they snarl and snap on followup track “Open Your Eyes.”

While the Creatures are all damned talented people, it’s Hirsch’s voice I find myself focusing on the most. It gets more intriguing with each listen, combining an Aimee Mann-esque delivery (especially on the title track, which practically could be an Aimee Mann song) with the somber huskiness of Margo Timmins or maybe Alison Moyet. She never screams or really even raises her voice, preferring instead to croon sweetly or lay you out with a flatly delivered, half-spoken line, and hell, it works.

By the time the elegaic “Little Heaven Big Sky” comes sweeping in, with its slow-stepping, delicate drums and Mojave 3-like feel, it’s like I’m out there on that darkened highway, speeding through the black with the windows down, just me and all those regrets. And I don’t ever want to reach my destination, wherever the hell that might be.

[The Jealous Creatures are playing their CD release party 10/8/11 at Echo/Jet Lounge, along with The Tyburn Jig & The Horse & Dagger.]
(Critter Records; Jealous Creatures --; Jealous Creatures (Facebook) --; Jealous Creatures (Reverbnation) --

Review by . Review posted Friday, October 7th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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9 Responses to “Jealous Creatures, Little Heaven Big Sky

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Shonen Knife + Jealous Creatures + Hilary Sloan + The Toasters + Vandaveer (MP3!) + More on October 28th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    […] Jealous Creatures and A Sundae Drive. Both are damn impressive, esp. the Creatures, whose new Little Heaven Big Sky is a killer in all its Western-tinged indie-rock glory; mind you, ASD’s You’re Gonna […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Jealous Creatures + Street Dogs + Murder the Stout + Fallcore XI + Wheel Workers + More on November 26th, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    […] music folks (members of Big Top & Japanic, for two) but also because their recent full-length, Little Heaven, Big Sky, awesomely blends the indie-rock of my youth (Superchunk, Magnapop, Tsunami, etc.) with […]

  3. Jealous Creatures – Houston, TX » Space City Rock Reviews Little Heaven Big Sky! on January 16th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    […] Original post […]

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » !Yes Indeed! Music Fest, Coming This Month on September 6th, 2012 at 11:14 am

    […] Western-sounding, Cowboy Junkies-ish rockers Jealous Creatures (whose most recent release, Little Heaven Big Sky you also really need to check out). Oh, and they’ve also dragged dark, stripped-down, […]

  5. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Wild Moccasins + listenlisten + Jealous Creatures (Rev’d!) + Art Institute + More on October 21st, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    […] Little Heaven Big Sky, which is pretty damn impressive, I have to say — see the full review here. They’re playing with also-cool, also Western-sounding (albeit more spaghetti Western than […]

  6. Jeremy Hart Reviews Little Heaven Big Sky LP | Jealous Creatures on December 1st, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    […] ¬†Original Article Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Interviews, Press. Bookmark the permalink. ← Jealous Creatures Featured as Rocks Off Artist of the Week Jason Smith Interviews Jealous Creatures → […]

  7. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Jealous Creatures + CSMDP + Knights of the Fire Kingdom + Vox and the Hound + Blackmarket Syndicate + Hall & Oates + Folk Family Revival + More on December 8th, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    […] Jealous Creatures have emerged as one of my favorite bands of late, and their debut full-length, Little Heaven Big Sky, bridged the gap between jangly, ’90s-ish indie-rock and lonely, windswept, Western-sounding […]

  8. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Jealous Creatures (Rev’d!) + Quiet Company + Something Fierce + Band of Mercy + Artopia + Heights Vinyl + More on January 26th, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    […] don’t get me wrong — I definitely still love 2011′s Little Heaven Big Sky, but Bazooka takes the sprawling, bleak/angry Western rock of that album and focuses it down […]

  9. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. (Very Late) Weekend, Pt. 1: New York City Queens + England in 1819 + Art Institute + Lotus Effect + More on October 14th, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    […] who I also managed to catch recently and who are pretty phenomenal. Last year’s full-length, Little Heaven Big Sky, was honestly one of the coolest things I heard in 2011, and apparently they’re already hard […]

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