Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
One can't just let any woman's voice into their house. It's a particular choice that has to be made when considering all of the female voices that are allowed past the entryway and down into the den, where the turntable is. There have to be pros and cons listed in columns and agonized over, scratching out the ones that might be insignificant and circling the deal breakers. There need to be certain tastes and textures rolled over in a mind, interpreted mannerisms and proclivities. It should take longer than one spends crinkling a candy bar wrapper - jawing away on the last bite of chocolate and caramel — and tossing it into the trash bin or in understanding the punchline to a joke. It should be sweated out and deliberated upon. Oh, but men let those voices into their homes all too easy sometimes.
They'll take Aretha Franklin or Carole King and all of their disciples - all of those who do good impersonations, not just the real thing. But enough. There's a good reason that we take Holly Miranda's voice into our home and it's got nothing to do with her attractiveness. It's got everything to do with her downright smokiness, her way of making it feel like tangled and unfettered hair at the same time and her ability to make us think about Michelle Phillips and how her moments on those Mamas & Papas tunes were the best, this side of John's. Mama Cass was an enormous talent, but I listened for Michelle in the songs and her voice was strong and begging for recognition beneath the overbearing strength of Elliot's pipes.
Miranda gets first billing here with her New York band The Jealous Girlfriends, a quartet that specializes in the attractive qualities of indecision and the dramatic interludes between action past and action present. It's a synopsis of how Phillips was portrayed in the M & Ps - obviously a disturbance and yet the least assuming - again, other than the insane good looks - of all four members. She wasn't the portly personality of Elliot, she didn't wear a furry hunter's cap or play the guitar. She could not have acted alone, and yet there she was playing the third fiddle.
It's the way that the Jealous Girlfriends draw the bath waters that make for interesting ideas and lines, when they let the water fill the tub slowly, the stream creeping off of the stagnant surface of the clear surface. It's this moment, before the water's been touched for the first time that anticipation gets to it and it's here where the group allows themselves the freedom to explore, to cut free and see the sights. There are many times during their songs when the skyline feels like Springsteen's "Nebraska," only in an extremely disjointed context - though there are many open prairies and open-ended ideas in the grooves they create, ones that just allow a person to hover in the exact weightlessness
Miranda and guitarist Josh Abbott entwine their vocals into the very same kind of tightrope chain that she sings about using to clean her brains with. It's a rippling flutter of ribbon that just makes for a hypnotizing somberness. They jettison any sort of fluff or filler for appropriate outbursts that go on to establish the plaintive emotions and the unbearable desire to flush out the fictions for the meaning of it all.