Jaye Bartell has one of those unusual voices that’s strangely beautiful despite being unconventional, like Arthur Russell or Morrissey. It’s soft and deep, and almost monotone, so Bartell sounds like he’s in a constant state of melancholy. On his new record Light Enough (out May 6 on Off White Records), he lives up to that description perfectly. He’s gloomy, but with just the right amount of light. His music isn’t fluffy, but it’s certainly not heavy. His songwriting is honest and humorous, sometimes filled with banal observations and sometimes with thought-provoking prose. Mostly set to gentle acoustic guitar arrangements, the songs on Light Enough are essentially folk tunes with subtle injections of 1980s Smiths vibes, deep Kings of Convenience inflection, dark M Ward smokiness, and Simon and Garfunkel’s brand of 1970s Americana.
The cover art shows Bartell floating in the sky, untethered, but with a blank stare, which feels on point with how you’ll likely feel listening to Light Enough. It’s so lovely, but so effortless and subtle. Songs like “G and Me”, “Tuesdays” and “Laundry Line” blend together with a weird sameness that is oddly calming. Light Enough is an excellent record to space out to completely, or just feel really sad to if that’s your mood.
One of the saddest songs on offer is also one of the prettiest. Title track “Light Enough” is a simple song that packs a punch to the gut. Skip it if you’re feeling down in the dumps. Another standout is the psych-folk “The Worm”, with hypnotic guitar that draws you into its spiral. And “The Burden” is one of the few tunes that picks up the pace a bit, which you’ll appreciate, and “The Ceiling” has a bit more whimsy than most of Light Enough.
Though you may prefer some good times and warm company, in those moments when you just want to be alone and feel the feels, Bartell delivers the perfect soundtrack. Considering he wrote most of by himself in his bedroom in Brooklyn, it seems he intended it to be listened to this way.