Cracking open Karen Jonas’ storybook record, The Restless, unleashes a torrent of vulnerable lyrics and dreamy melodies. Intimate tales of ill-fated lovers, drunken dreamers and ex-wives in grocery stores pour from the tracks, eleven songs all strung together by the alt-country songwriter’s raw and whimsical storytelling.
As Jonas turns each page, her warm, weightless vocals weave the narrative from song to song. Conversational one moment, full of conviction the next, her voice – while at times tinged with a Disney princess-like lilt – commands listeners’ attention. Holler.Country
Over the course of five albums, the Maryland-born singer has established herself as very much a country voice with old school leanings. This time round, however, she’s in far darker alt-country often bluesier mood on a collection of frequently doom-hung songs exploring vulnerability. The Restless opens in France with the spooked intro and piano-backed rhythmically urgent gathering of ‘Paris Breeze’, “yellow lights and cobblestones/a glass of wine that never gets empty/glitter in the sky and stars that shine/a million years to you and me/an old hotel with lace and velvet/and some stones they brought here long before the mayflower”, a number that conjures desire (“it grows suffocating here without you near enough to touch me in the bedsheets”) and memories of a tryst in some hotel room.
As the album title suggests, she has the itch and she’s going to scratch it. ‘The Breakdown’ being an organ-fuelled Southern country soul groove that finds her in a bar with an on/off lover (“sometimes I forget that you even exist/sometimes I miss you but if we’re both here after a couple of drinks/I’d still kiss you”), she keen to get things on (“I really could use another drink/don’t you think you could buy me a drink/come on over and buy me a drink then let’s get out of here and get closer”), he, “sipping on whiskey and regret”, seemingly less so, rubbing salt in the wound as, with more than a hint of euphemism, she remarks “this morning out shopping I saw your ex-wife but I’m not even sure what she looks like/so just to be careful I hid in the frozen food aisle/and I guess I don’t know how you left it with her/but I assume you went through with the divorce/now she’s buying waffles and I’m looking for dessert”. Folking
1. Paris Breeze (3:47)
2. The Breakdown (3:37)
3. Lay Me Down (4:11)
4. Elegantly Wasted (3:52)
5. That’s Not My Dream Couch (2:35)
6. Forever (3:57)
7. Rock the Boat (3:58)
8. Drunken Dreamer (3:44)
9. We Could Be Lovers (4:26)
10. Throw Me to the Wolves (4:23)
11. Lay Me Down (3:26)