The Australian songwriter has had to put up with a lot; bad relationships, expectation, isolation, the transmorphic effect of time and the criminally under-acknowledged trauma of miscarriage. She deals with all of these past experiences with frank humour, talking into the mirror with lyrics that carry raw power – never hesitating as she pours iodine into those emotional lacerations and her plain-spoken and uncomplicated lyrics hit you with a full tidal force.
This is in full view on the album’s closing track, “Love or Low Self Esteem”, a soulful ballad about a fragile but forthright confrontation of a faithless lover; “And when you told me you don’t want to live together / I know exactly what you mean / Because why would you want to pay for dinner / When you eat every night for free?”.
Her core sound is sweeping gothic beach rock, that has the tendency to explode with crescendos at any point, crashing on the shore of anyone who listens. Cornelius’ voice is a soothing balm and the album’s guitars are cleansing, washing over like fresh water (even incorporating an angelic contribution from Mary Lattimore’s harp on the celestial folk lullaby “Born Again”).
The album has its meatier moments too. “Banging My Head”, is a rumbling, ’60s garage nugget of a lover’s seething regret, somewhere in the folds between PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Patti Smith, while “Here Goes Nothing” flips from a sauntering indie-pop song about a distant lover to a swaggering, sleazy glam-rock affair, calling bullshit on the bluff that he will catch the next flight from London to see her (unfortunately it’s all over far too quickly).
“Body Memory” contains the finest – and most melancholic – moment. A detached automated beat drives slowly as Jess reflects on the trauma of her miscarriage, how it has changed her (as she mourns not only her child but, her life and spirit prior to the tragedy), and how a woman can only ever go through the physical experience of it alone (“I wish it could be simple like it is for you / But my body has a memory and it won’t forget”).
And again it’s the simplicity of her words that hold the secret to its destructive power. The opening lines “When we met I used to make you laugh / Then we lost the baby and it broke my heart / And I find it hard to be that funny now” are so crushing that she can forgo the need for any supplementary imagery. Quite simply, Jess Cornelius can still manage to shine bright even in life’s darkest moments – a gift that keeps on giving.