It has been a long time since the lone acoustic singer-songwriter has attempted something with a little more gumption than "boy meets girl/girl leaves boy/boy writes lots of songs about it". Jeh-sea Wells seems to be moving back to the line of dark storytelling with the release of an EP entitled When We Die.
Vocally, the influences of Cobain come to mind, but in a way that we can hear it is from the first generation of folks that were not quite of age when Mr. Cobain called it a night (or had the night called for him, if you prefer). It's also slightly reminiscent of the solo work of Jeremy Enigk, though more straightforward. The themes are dark, the voice is a bit haggard. There is a roughness at the edge of Wells' voice, but it doesn't break or crack when expected. He manages to hold that line well. The pain of each song is apparent, but with a smart resolution, an acceptance of reality, though it may seem dismal.
For the most part, the voice is accompanied only by itself and an acoustic guitar. No fancy string arrangements or keyboard overlays. Just a guitar. It's well-played and simple, but in a way that helps you to focus on the lyrics and let go of everything but the story of the song.
The EP kicks off with "And if the Sun is Real" and it sets the tone for an album that is reflective, but do not expect it to leave you feeling happy. A few of the songs (especially the back to back duo of "When we die" and "You Don't Know What It's Like") seem to get a bit redundant. By the end of the EP, the bleakness continues, but so does the desire to hear these songs again.
Where to Jeh-sea: