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Jenny Hoyston - Isle Of

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Artist: Jenny Hoyston

Album: Isle Of

Label: Southern

Review date: Aug. 24, 2007

Jenny Hoyston is best known for her role as singer and guitarist of San Francisco’s Erase Errata, a band more anomalous than most give them credit for. Their first two full-lengths were unfairly passed over at the time of their release, subsumed under the dancepunk and no-wave resurgences of the early aughts; their most recent, Nightlife, surfaced quietly and received faint praise for its fuller production. While many reviewers have emphasized the obliqueness of their music, even a casual treatment of the lyrics reveals a band whose concerns tend towards topicality. Hoyston, who has also released solo recordings under the moniker Paradise Island, presents her non-Erase Errata work as something minor. Isle Of, her second solo LP and the first to be released under her Christian name, is populated by all manner of minor signifiers — the holey drum-machine shamble of “Everyone’s Alone,” the way Hoyston gently parodies her own trademark declaratory vocals in “Even in This Day and Age”’s unironic balladry. Set in the context of her main gig, Isle Of makes clear that Erase Errata is every bit a collective; the premises Hoyston follows here are the same that motivate every bedroom 4-tracker, but done with the kind of aplomb and sense of possibility that animate the music of Erase Errata predecessors LiliPUT and Ut.

Erase Errata’s latest work, though different thematically and production-wise, is the sound of a band going at its own pace, avoiding audience expectations rather than subverting them. Isle Of feels somehow like a continuation and refinement of the nervous energy that populated debut LP Other Animals; it is a satisfying album because it is not an album, and has no audience, save for an imagined nation of bedroom musicians, taking the means of production into their own hands. This album’s hooks never fall into any kind of recognizable or predictable pattern: The architecture of a song like opener “Spell D-O-G” is such that the listener is simultaneously inside and outside of the song. The pleasure of the song’s melody, sung by Hoyston in a voice that’s huskier and breathier than the one she usually employs, is built into the listener’s analysis of it. While it seems stakes aren't particularly high on Isle Of, this kind of songwriting proves that impression false. Hoyston uses a minor, peripatetic tone to her advantage throughout this collection; the end result, as well as the constituent parts, ends up being more compelling than anything she’s done before.

Hoyston’s apparent fixation on islands suggests the recursive tendency that makes fragments of even the album’s full-blown songs. Isle Of, appropriately, is very much about the loss of data, fashioning guerrilla meaning by deliberately losing the big narrative. “Novelist,” the album’s best song, casts it in the following terms: “Just letting it be said / Each tired, dramatic page / I had to set it down / It took me one year to read / All of your messages said the same thing.” In title and style, Isle Of also alludes to the birthplace of Sappho, whose work, fragmentized by historical processes rather than by design, are powerful even without explicit intertexts because of the intervention they demand on the part of the reader. The muted gestures that make up Isle Of range from the formally challenging to the somnolent and flaccid, but it’s likely one of the only indie records this year that tells you to do it yourself and actually, really means it.

By Brandon Bussolini

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