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.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Photo: Rachael Pony Cassells / Courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Jess Cornelius

Loantaka Records

24 July 2020

The titular distance chronicled on Jess Cornelius' solo debut album can be measured in a plethora of ways: geographical as someone born and raised in New Zealand before moving to Australia and now residing in Los Angeles, but also the separation between lovers and the chasm between social expectations and personal dreams, the ideals of love and its nitty-gritty, the past and the future.

Distance builds upon the promise displayed by the former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter on her 2017 EP, Nothing Is Lost. Recorded in Los Angeles as full band arrangements with personnel including members of War on Drugs, Warpaint, and Woods, Cornelius's opus delivers a nifty brand of introspection which channels the sharp observations and gutsy indie-rock confessionals of Sharon Van Etten, exhaling a shrieking and swooping catharsis flecked with Americana, scuzzy grunge and even 1980's pop.

The songs presented here cannily negotiate and navigate interrogations of love, betrayal, loss, and guilt and strike a balance between indulgence and confrontation, building a fervent, thrumming momentum like a steam train before making peace and landing softly and peacefully.

Through an Angel Olsen-like, impassioned folk-rock prism, album opener "Kitchen Floor" examines the ambivalent feelings experienced by the demise of a relationship. There's the pathos of failure and farewells but also the sense of an opening of possibilities, the promise of rejuvenation and independence, as Cornelius's vocals alternate between a smoky croon and visceral keening.

The glowing bespoke riff and exhilaration of "Here Goes Nothing" and hassled perspective of "Banging My Head" are both raucous and raw, drawing from the arsenals of classic PJ Harvey and Liz Phair, whilst the becalmed shoegaze of "Palm Trees" exudes a lonesome sweetness in its sepia-tinged doo-wop that's never cloying. It demonstrates the significant strides she has made as a vocalist. "No Difference" begins as a breezy slice of Mac DeMarco-like beach-pop that wafts between slinky R&B and sober meditation before flourishing in an avalanche of ringing timbres receding into a wall of reverb.

On the electropop charge of "Body Memory", Cornelius unflinchingly recounts the aftermath of a miscarriage over a rinky-dink drum machine and the purring electronics of a torrid synth, exploring the psychic scarring of lovers. "When we met I used to make you laugh / Then we lost a baby, and it broke my heart / Now I find it hard, to be that funny now / I tried to tell you that I can't rewind / I can't walk backwards in my mind / 'Cause my body has a memory, and it won't forget."

On occasion, Cornelius nimbly wanders out of her comfort zone, with devastating results. Take the reminiscence of isolation on "Born Again", for instance, a slice of somber, Laura Marling-styled balladry that swivels around subtle synths, filigreed acoustic guitar and gently plucked harp courtesy of Mary Lattimore. "One of these days, I'm going to be born again," she confides, as though preparing to claw back the passing years. Likewise, "Easy For No One" is dyed in the languid wilderness sound of Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters and country pastoral. It establishes stately patterns and deftly blurring the distinction between vintage and modern as she meditates on the futility of the road not taken. "I keep wasting my time on other things / Like thinking of the past and all the other lives I could have lived instead."

Outfitted with zinging melodies, the healing wounds and gnawing restlessness of Distance plumb the myriad complexities of womanhood whilst embracing the credo of plowing forward during challenging times. Cornelius' plain-spoken narratives are imbued with a thoughtful, meditative air and pull the rug out under emotional certainties.


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.