We Made This Ourselves, the first album by New York-via-London expat Essie Jain, is an insanely spare and sparse work. Accompanied by piano and guitar (as well as other instruments, like drums by Jim White of The Dirty Three), Jain's vocals breathe in the space between the words and phrases. The album sounds like she's surrounded by an entire orchestra, each member waiting patiently for their one moment to play, then fading again to stillness.
In 2004, she started recording at home with an eight-track. This gave her the freedom to experiment. She realized what she needed to do in order to create the sound she wanted -- nothing. Let the songs be roughly hewn. Keep them minimal. Avoid all indulgences. Let the music get as dark as it has to be. Her past few years' life experience gave rise to the lyrics that are so central to this record.
The result is We Made This Ourselves, a stunningly emotional album. At the core, Essie Jain's songs are touching, haunting melodies that can strike out on one fragile, repeating note. Yet, they sound indestructible. It's like nothing you've ever heard before, and it is spoken with a powerful quiet.