AudioFarm | Music Review
March 25, 2021
Coming of age in the '90s, I had an unfair bias against the saxophone. The once-hip instrument of jazz and early rock and roll had become associated with cheesy 80's hits like "Careless Whisper," talk-show politicking, and forgettable, soporific elevator music.
How wrong I was. Liberally employed by the band Destroyer in their widely acclaimed 2011 masterpiece, Kaputt, the saxophone imbued an album of cryptic synth-rock with cool, jazzy detachment. Destroyer's lyrics have always been poetic, never dull, but often impenetrable. Yet the saxophone dances along in the background, connecting you to a mood of dreamy urban longing. This album made me realize the real power of the sax and fortunately seemed to kick off a decade of influence that includes two new fantastic releases I hope you check out.
The first, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature by Cassandra Jenkins, uses the sax to much the same effect as Kaputt, tracing out a mood of somber reflection that enriches the singer-songwriter's powerful lyrics. On "Crosshairs," one of the album's highlights, she sings: "empty space is my escape, it runs through me like a river, while time spits in my face." Coping with tragedy by reconnecting with nature is a running theme, and the album's instrumental closer, "The Ramble," drives that theme home to devastatingly beautiful effect. She creates a stunning soundscape of birds, footsteps, and distant voices that evaporate out of glittering ambiance and a fluttering sax. The track captures the healing spirit of a nature hike, reaffirming that whatever pain the body has endured, the world around us continues to sparkle with restorative beauty.
Finally, check out the latest album, Ignorance, by The Weather Station, another example of modern alternative music delving into the rich potential of instrumentation beyond guitars and drums. The opening track, "Robber," is abundant with strings, piano, and again, the sax. This time, though, the sax adds tension and chaos as the lyrics swell to the conclusion that thieves don't have to be real-life boogeymen but can instead be the intangible system of money itself. It's a timely, masterful track, opening a steady, sure-footed album that never lets up.
These two new releases and the now-decade-old Kaputt are all available on Spotify, and anywhere you buy music. Enjoy, and keep it saxy!