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New Music: Jessica Hernandez
June 16, 2015
On paper, a gritty guitar-driven, blues-tinged female rock artist sounds like something that holds promise – it brings to mind big vocals, impassioned lyrics and a sound that should border on the right side of near deafening; unfortunately, that’s not quite the case with Jessica Hernandez and her new single Caught Up. The American native does have the voice to fit this style and while some of her songs do show glimpses, including Caught Up, of what could be, there is a feeling that something is lacking or lost to a glossy production.
Yes, there is obviously an objective talent present, but in terms of whether the music stands out as something noteworthy or noticeably unique it falls short, and instead sounds as though it is a parent’s idea of what rock for young people should sound like. Perhaps that notion can be attributed to being cynical, certainly there is confirmation of an element of fun to Hernandez’s catalogue; however overall there just doesn’t seem to be anything that really pushes through and grabs the listener. It feels as though there has been a bit too much consideration put into how it should sound, through calculation and thought, as opposed to getting a group of musicians into a studio and letting them have at it.
With Caught Up being my first encounter of Hernandez, and not wanting to dismiss her on the basis of one song, I sought out some other examples, including the six-track EP that shares the same name released earlier this year. While there was one record I did enjoy, Cry Cry Cry, which did give feeling of some kind of old-style rock & roll sonata, the rest of the collection was more of the same: over-produced and, ultimately, forgettable pop masquerading as rock music. Going back further to the Demons EP of 2013, where Caught Up makes its first appearance, and there’s still no change.
While this music doesn’t tick any of my boxes, I won’t pretend or make out that it shouldn’t be listened to, it would be childish to suggest that there is no place for material like this – obviously there’s going to be an audience somewhere who enjoys what Jessica Hernandez does, and I genuinely believe that she would be an entertaining act to see play live, be it in a bar or at a festival. What just doesn’t sit right is that these songs have been firmly pushed into the rock music pigeonhole when, with all due respect, they have no right to be there in the first place. If rock is going to be diluted into an easily-consumable format of the genre then by all means go for it, just don’t pretend like it is anything groundbreaking.
For those who do enjoy Jessica Hernandez, the prestigious Seattle-based radio station KEXP has featured her performing songs, including Caught Up, on their infamous YouTube channel which are worth a watch – in fairness to Hernandez, she and her band The Deltas are a well rehearsed and practiced unit who show that they are more than capable of recreating their studio sound in a live environment. In addition there is a tour underway of the UK and further afield in Europe, offering an apparently rare opportunity to see the group at work.
Words by Sion Ford