Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Midday Show with DJ Cheryl Waters, is “Vampires” by S from the 2014 album Cool Choices on Hardly Art.
Jenn Ghetto’s whispered vocals and messily melodic guitar playing have established her as one of Seattle’s most distinct and consistent songwriters. Ghetto first emerged as one of the vocalists in Carissa’s Wierd, a critical and local darling of the early 2000s that also counts Sera Cahoone, Ben Bridwell, and Mat Brooke among its alumni. However, while many of those musicians went on to other musical ventures, Ghetto unexpectedly withdrew from music after recording two solo albums under the moniker S, 2001’s Sadstyle and 2004’s Puking and Crying. Six years later, she emerged to tour with Brooke’s group Grand Archives and released her third solo album, im not as good at it as you, and has remained active in music ever since.
Her latest release, September’s Cool Choices, was crafted over two years in the wake of Ghetto’s breakup with her long term partner. Unlike her typically insular writing and recording process, Ghetto opted to road test the album’s songs throughout 2013 before entering the studio with drummer Zach McNulty, bassist Betsy Olson, guitarist Carrie Murphy, and producer Chris Walla. “Vampires”, the album’s first single, sounds more confident and engaging than most of Ghetto’s past work under any moniker, but that hardly means that she’s lost any of her alluring intimacy. Her cutting lyrics remain intact – “Oh your friends know?/What a big surprise/Be sure and tell them/everywhere I hide” – as does her painstaking, whispered delivery, but backed up by a full band and moving at a faster-than-usual tempo, Ghetto, no longer content to be confined to her bedroom 4-track, sounds more magnetic than ever.
Ghetto is going on a West Coast tour behind Cool Choices in October, but she doesn’t have any Seattle dates announced at the moment. Keep an eye on her Facebook and Bandcamp pages for updates from the road, and, below, watch a live version of “Vampires” from earlier this year.