PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Jackie Lynn: Jackie Lynn

Here's an intriguing concept album, a midwestern Western set to music.

Jackie Lynn

Jackie Lynn

Label: Thrill Jockey
US Release Date: 2016-06-10
UK Release Date: 2016-06-10

An elaborate backstory underpins this album. Jackie Lynn is a self-titled debut album, though Jackie Lynn is a character created by Haley Fohr, who has heretofore recorded under the name Circuit des Yeux, an experimental beyond-indie band. If you like first-person lyrics that directly reveal emotions or life details of the singer, you won’t find that here. Fohr has developed, instead, a concept album that is a midwestern Western, a short story worked out over eight narrative songs, one as short as eight seconds.

In the opening song, “Bright Lights”, we encounter the main character on the road, heading to Chicago like some modern-day Sister Carrie. In her baritone voice, Fohr sings in a sound more melancholy than excited: “Riding into the city, Greyhound 94 / One way, not looking back anymore / Bright lights, I’d like to know you, and forget the things I was before / Bright lights, you could show me, how to be queen of this city." The song is moody, slow-paced. While Circuit des Yeux albums were experimental in arrangement, here we have light percussion from a drum kit, noodling on an electric guitar, long-drawn out synth chords with background vocals — the sound of the instruments is not unusual, simply establishing an atmosphere for the story. But the sound of the vocals is unusual.

If you don’t know Haley Fohr’s earlier work, you’ll be struck by how deep her voice is. An obvious comparison is to Nina Simone, but Fohr sings in an even lower range and gets a clear, bell-like tone in her low notes, not the husky sound that would be more typical. A woman who sings in a baritone range evokes melancholy, which lends all the more mystery to poetic lyrics such as “I’m going to take to the streets, and find strength in all that’s weak / And like a white city dove, I’ll know skyscraper love."

The character Jackie Lynn is an outlaw of sorts, partial to vice, violence, and bad boys, which is explored in the songs “Chicken Picken”, “Smile”, and “Alien Love”. She wears out her big-city welcome, and as the tongue-in-cheek liner notes (citing an article from The Chicago Chronicle) tell us: “Jackie, now a 25-year-old Gemini residing somewhere unknown, has mysteriously disappeared after leaving a chronological musical artifact that the city of Chicago is now using to try to trace her whereabouts.”

Jackie’s whereabouts, if you listen to the album, are made quite clear in the song “Franklin, TN". Jackie is headed home, telling those who “drove her out of town” that she’s returning, traveling light, with a gun and three bullets: “1 bullet for my thoughts / 1 bullet for my dreams / And 1 for all to know I’m back in Franklin, Tennessee." Her outlaw vision is presented in a synths-and-guitar swirl of sound that makes for the most interesting sonic moment on the album. After a one-minute, minimalist instrumental called “The Great Fight”, Fohr closes with the album’s most beautiful song, “Jackie”, a rather straightforward acoustic guitar-dominated folk song. “Jackie, you’ve got yourself to blame”, Fohr sings, and we end this enigmatic concept album not sure of what exactly has happened to Jackie, or where she might go next.

Liner notes and artistic statements from the press kit clarify much of what Haley Fohr is attempting to do with personas in Jackie Lynn, though multiple listens while reading the lyrics will eventually get a listener to the same place. In either case the album does demand great attention. I can’t imagine any of these songs playing on the radio, or on one or two listens attracting new fans. Stalwarts of Circuit des Yeux and Haley Fohr will likely delight, however, in this new installment of her performance art.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.