Katie Ernst and Dustin Laurenzi have made a name for themselves working in a number of different musical outfits, but together, they comprise two-thirds of the insanely good jazz trio Twin Talk. As Edith Judith, the two musicians (Ernst on vocals and bass, Laurenzi on guitar, synth, reeds, and horns) attack another musical genre – that of introspective indie folk with an emphasis on unique arrangements and stately, imaginative instrumentation.
Edith Judith’s debut album, Bones & Structure, was born out of isolation, as the songs were written at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. “We’re not going anywhere,” Ernst sings on the album’s minor-key single, “Bridge”, featuring gentle acoustic guitar fingerpicking from Laurenzi. The songs all embody a certain indescribable warmth, along with a mild underlying tension. On the opening track, “Carry”, electric piano and churning, low-key percussion moves the track along a winsome path as Ernst sings of how her mother and father live within her: “Bones and structure / Two are one / I am my mother.” The engaging chorus brings it home: “They carry me / I carry them with me / I carry them on / To carry me on / They carry me / I carry things that will outlast me.”
While the “folk” label certainly has plenty of validity on Bones & Structure, Ernst and Laurenzi, accompanied by drummer Ben Lumsdaine, incorporate plenty of nods to other genres. Songs like “Heartbreaker” and “Hot Lava” bring in warm synths that imbue the tracks with an understated vaporwave vibe. Then again, the lovely “Sleeping Beast” embraces a more organic approach, with gauzy folk stylings bringing to mind vintage Nick Drake and Laurenzi’s reed swells, adding a breathtaking new dimension before the song crashes into an odd sequence of slashing guitar chords. Elsewhere, “Neon Sign” comes out of nowhere with an intoxicating blend of lo-fi folk and eloquent Beatlesque melodies, adding more and more subgenres to the duo’s stylistic arsenal.
There’s also an almost zen simplicity to some of the music, as in the song “Luna”, which comes across as a sort of minimalist hymn. “The moon is the earth’s only moon,” Ernst sings as the music marches along and gradually builds into a kind of sci-fi variation of dream-pop. The moon obsession turns into a bit of contemplation of the sun on “Flesh & Bone”. “Until there is nothing left for me,” Ernst sings over a simple, engaging guitar figure and Laurenzi’s multitracked saxophones, “Sun will rise, and sun will fall / Oh, the roundness of it all / Until there is nothing left for me.” The song isn’t just gentle rumination; it’s also a beautifully crafted combination of pop songwriting smarts and jazz-oriented inclinations.
Ernst, Laurenzi, and Lumsdaine could very easily keep things simple and predictable and still make an excellent record, but the bits and pieces that make Bones & Structure unique are part of what makes it essential listening. Edith Judith bring so much to the table, but never in a way that distracts from the inherent beauty and sophistication of every song.