[12 February 2008]
Jaymay is the stage name of Jamie Seerman, a New York singer-songwriter. It’s better than her real name, for the purposes of communicating the particular whimsical/heartfelt thrust of most of her songs. This is a good thing, because though she exists in the generally-familiar territory of acoustic folk music, Jaymay brings a fresh perspective to too-often raked-over encounters between guys and girls.
It’s clear Bob Dylan holds a special place in Seerman’s musical universe, not just in the earthy folk orientation of her music, but also in the way repetitions of simple rhyme schemes build a sense of urgency. The way she whispers “Shake it”, or sings about lying in bed with a boy she doesn’t care about, momentarily recalls Regina Spektor, but Jaymay’s less self-consciously artful.
Jaymay presents herself lyrically in a series of fascinating about-turns. The opening “Grey or Blue” seems at first lost; images jumble over each other—a xylophone, a raining sky—until it locks into the ‘you’. The song becomes an acutely observed meditation on sexual desire. Elsewhere, she’s unaccountably good-natured. Even when she’s breaking out from beneath someone, as on “You’d Rather Run”, it’s all sweetness: “It’s not that I hate you / I never loved you enough to hate you”. The song isn’t completely successful, because the 10-minute length consists of just an endlessly repeated series of folk verses enumerating the various indiscretions of the one being broken from. Later, on “Ill Willed Person”, you wonder if these masses of goodwill are being used as a kind of ultimate revenge—despite how much she’s suffered, she seems to be saying, she’s still determined to think well of the world. In this context, the farewell, “love everything you’ve always loved” comes to seem a remarkable, simultaneously-strong-and-brittle sentiment.
The lyrics lift up what may be otherwise conventional folk songwriting to more memorable emotional terrain. “Sea Green, See Blue” is poetic without dipping into cliché when Jaymay talks about the threesome of “there was you, there was me in the room with the alcoholic guest”. And in the end all this lyrical trickery makes Jaymay a satisfyingly complex persona—much more complex than a singer like Feist (though Feist’s songwriting and instrumentation easily hold more interest than Jaymay). But emotionally, Jaymay treads among distinctly adult concerns.
She also demonstrates ingenuity in the arrangement/production side of things, using subtle effects and a surprisingly varied instrumental palette to give colour to her otherwise straightforward compositions. When she’s more upbeat, Jaymay captures the carefree mood effectively. “Hard to Say” bounces along with a swung rhythm and brushed snare, though her trumpet impression and scatting may turn some listeners momentarily away.
We know sentiment doesn’t have to be complex to hit hard: “I believe we were friends”, Jaymay aches on the title track, “And I believe we will be again”. Jaymay spends the majority of Autumn Fallin’ trying to work out what’s going on in other people’s minds. Buried in her warm music, somewhere, is Jaymay’s own sparkling mind; and that, really, is the one most worth getting to know.