Jessica Lea Mayfield: Sorry is Gone

Jessica Lea Mayfield
Sorry is Gone
(ATO)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Romantic breakups have fueled many, perhaps too many, singer-songwriter tunes and albums. But on Sorry is Gone, Jessica Mayfield’s first solo album in three years, she describes, often in gritty, extremely personal detail, the effects of finally extricating herself from an abusive marriage. 

Not surprisingly, she returns to the full-blown electric indie rock she temporarily abandoned on her largely acoustic set of Elliott Smith songs she covered in partnership with Seth Avett. The opening “Wish You Could See Me Now” sets the tone with Mayfield’s girlish, innocent voice singing about taking pills to kill the pain of a horrible marriage over blustery guitars. “I’m done excusing myself,” she sings on the title track to a hooky melody that combines aspects of the Cure and Siouxie and the Banshees. She gets more detailed when moaning “The shotgun’s under the futon/ This is not my idea of fun” to a loping beat.

Songs become darker as the album progresses, leading to the slow, druggy, sludgy “Soaked Through,” with lyrics of “I tried to leave/ He wouldn’t let me up/ He shook me and he cried … Please stay,” likely an example of what many abusers say. The lone acoustic entry, “Safe 2 Connect 2” asks the question “Any tips on how to feel more human?” over skeletal guitar, creating a bit of a breather from the rugged electric guitars that dominate the rest of the tracks. Thankfully, the comparatively jaunty, Byrds-styled strumming of the ringing “Offa My Hands” keeps the tone lighter, even when Mayfield sings “Gotta wash you offa my hands … every single DNA strand.”

Mayfield and producer John Agnello keep the songs sharp and focused with plenty of hypnotic choruses to entrance the listener regardless of how riveting and intense the concepts are. Still, it’s tough to ignore lyrics as brutal as “Get out of my house” when they are repeated multiple times atop a molasses grunge of strumming guitars on “WTF.”  And “I’d cut off my hands/ Before I cut off the rope,” doesn’t scream “singalong” despite the easy on the ears melody of the music backing those sentiments.

She succeeds with this tricky balance due to a great band, expertly rendered songs that split the difference between angst and honesty, and a voice that’s both vicious and resigned while singing about a horrific time that you hope is finally behind her.  The backstory leading to Sorry is Gone may not be the type you’d wish on anyone, but in the hands of Jessica Lea Mayfield, it has resulted in compelling art.