New to OpenAir: Jessica Lea Mayfield, Thee Oh Sees, Sylvan Esso

(Photo: LeAnn Mueller/ courtesy of the artist)
<p>Jessica Lea Mayfield</p>

photo: Jessica Lea Mayfield albumJessica Lea Mayfield- “Make My Head Sing...”

Jessica Lea Mayfield’s third album isn’t exactly a radical shift, thematically speaking. Previous records “With Blasphemy So Heartfelt” and “Tell Me” drift toward moseying but never flowery Americana folk that favor the thorns over the blossoms. “Make My Head Sing…” is Mayfield’s first full-length without the helm of Dan Auerbach, and oddly enough, it’s the one that finds her taking a hard-nosed rock approach more akin to Auerbach’s Black Keys. Opening with the volcanic riffs of “Oblivious,” the album’s ten songs play as downtrodden but defiant, and never lack for melody. The breeziness of the upbeat “I Wanna Love You” or “Do I Have the Time” seem to belie Mayfield’s heavy lyrics, yet the elements ease together into an inspired mix of grunge and pop, encapsulated by Mayfield’s smoky vocals.

Standout track: “Oblivious

photo: Thee Oh Sees 'Drop' albumThee Oh Sees- “The Drop”

“The Drop” is the eighth studio album in six years from Thee Oh Sees, an act that doesn’t seem to have the same grasp on the concept of time as most human beings. “This will be the last Oh Sees show for a long while,” frontman John Dwyer told a San Francisco crowd in December of last year. “Long,” of course, is a relative term: four months after the fact, we have both a new album and a string of Oh Sees tour dates. While “The Drop” is a bit less energetic and venturesome than previous albums, it carries on the psych-fuzz band’s track record of fine albums, enlisting the similarly garage-minded Mikal Cronin for highlight “Encrypted Bounce” and “The Lens,” which along with “King’s Nose” finds the typically manic band emulating classically-minded progressive rockers Yes and The Moody Blues.

Standout track: “Camera (Queer Sound)

photo: Sylvan Esso albumSylvan Esso- "Sylvan Esso"

Meet Sylvan Esso, a duo featuring Amelia Meath of Mountain Man and Nick Sanborn of Megafaun. If you are not familiar with either of those bands, first off, you should remediate that ASAP. But for the time being, it's not a major issue, as the fruits of the collaboration ultimately sound like neither. On this self-titled debut, Sanborn seizes the opportunity to spread his wings as an electronic producer, being allocated primarily to bass in Megafaun. Meanwhile, Meath's earthy vocals are transported beyond her typically folk realm and meted out lovingly across Sanborn's accommodating synth-pop soundscapes. Songs like "Dreamy Bruises" and "H.S.K.T." play like bass-heavy but brainy club thumpers, while "Hey Mami" and "Coffee" are charming indie pop numbers. With their first full-length, Meath and Sanborn offer plenty of thrill and surprise as they seamlessly venture into new musical territory.

Standout track: "Play It Right"