Before Lana Del Rey, and even Lizzy Grant in record form, there was May Jailer, an acoustic singer/songwriter with a great knack for story through simple melodies. I first let slip, vaguely, about this album from a review of Lana Del Rey’s “Lana Del Rey EP” and since I’ve been inundated with questions, comments, and requests for it. While I can’t give it to you, I can give you this review. I know it’s not the same as owning, but I’ll do my best to convey what this album is and why it’s great.
I’m not trying to gloat, or know 100% that this is accurate, but I’ll say it anyway, I was the first to buy this album when it came out. When I received it, it was nothing more than a CD-R with a hand written note attached to it. I first heard of this project through my friend Pat Dugan, who was was in the studio for some of the recording. As I’ve said before, this album was recorded in Lake Placid, NY through Jim Cushman. Granted I owe Dugan for a lot of my musical exploits, circa 2003-present, but this is one that has become personal in many ways.
At it’s core, Sirens is a young woman’s personal journey and statement about the world around her. She plays with a number of different influences, like Marilyn Monroe (“Next to Me”) and Jeff Buckley (“A Star for Nick”). The album channel’s Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album, only it’s tailored to a mature 15 year old with ambition and a narrative to tell. There is no political message to the album, which is in stark contrast with Springsteen’s concept, but the ambition of that project is riddled throughout it’s 15 tracks.
The instrumentation is varied and can be a bit repetitive at times. The melodies aren’t meant to be overwhelming, they’re there to serve the narrative more than anything. The opening track, “For K, Pt. 1” is a story about a person that ends up in prison, later retried and lands the death penalty. The narrator is stuck asking “is this what you wished?” as a bystander and someone left behind. “My Momma” is a rebellious teenage anthem about a guy the narrator is interested in and the protestation of her mother. May relates all of the good qualities of this man, especially how he’s “Under 40” and “has a job” to a still disproving mother. “Bad Disease” may be the album’s most personal track, examining the human condition through a flawed narrator, trying to rectify how they feel about negative things in the world and being generally unsatisfied with their station in life. And the albums greatest lyrics, in my opinion, is delivered by the track “Westbound:” “You like to write about all of your problems, put them in songs cuz you think it would solve them. But you’re wrong.”
This will forever be the one Lizzy Grant project that I relate to most. Not that I don’t like her Lana Del Rey material, but this one seems more personal than her material on Born to Die. Granted, Del Rey projects tragic experience like no other, but with May Jailer it was the thrill of the journey, seeing that unrest, and someone given the ability to change their direction and station in life. People don’t give Lizzy enough credit, but had they heard this album, I don’t think she’d get the ridicule she does today.