Jessica Bailiff: Feels Like Home

I won't presume to know how Ms. Bailiff feels about her music being called 'hippie-folk' or when words like 'trippy' are used to describe it. But it's hard to resist such labels when listening to the 31-minute Feels Like Home, especially when its plenitude of psychedelic mantras makes it resemble a 1970s session recorded at some remote mountainside cabin; furthermore, chanted lyrics like “What's Inside Your Mind?” and “Body of water / You and me / We sing / We swim” (“Lakeside Blues”) do little to dissuade the listener from using such descriptions. The material (in fact her first full-length of solo material in four years) typically pairs her fragile, gossamer vocals and acoustic guitar with ornate instrumental touches (strings, percussion) that intensify the music's ethereal character. Hardly an overly demonstrative singer, Bailiff seems more intent on letting her soothing voice become part of a song's fabric (“Evidence” a rare example of vocal passion) though she offsets her sound's softer dimension with intermittent guitar fuzz. The most unusual settings engage most: with guitars melding into a bleeding blur (“We Were Once”) and a woodwind drone used as a pedal point (“Persuasion”), Bailiff's folk-madrigals entrance, while “Spiral Dream,” the album's most anomalous piece, channels the spirit of “Cabinessence” as Bailiff surrounds her piano with ambient haze and billowing vocal clusters. Still, despite the music's evocative, haunted charm, the disc's brevity and its almost exclusive reliance on two-minute vignettes makes the album feel slight.

July 2006