When Jill Andrews released her self-titled EP in 2009 soon after the break-up of her folk duo The Everybodyfields, it played a little bit like a six-song “Dear John” letter. And while the songs chronicle the slow and careful dismantling of a romantic relationship, it wasn’t easy — especially for devoted fans of Jill Andrews and Sam Quinn’s promising project — to not read into the music looking for answers for the break-up.
Those who listened closely, however, found a collection of songs from Andrews stronger than her work with Quinn: The emotional depths were deeper; the narrative arc more detailed and full of insight and catharsis. The Mirror, Jill Andrews’s first full-length record, draws on the strengths of her previous work, but does so in what feels like a deliberate move from the indie fringes (and the edge of despair) — and into the a more emotionally stable, pop-friendly milieu. This bodes well for Andrews’s career as her great range as an artist is, for the first time, apparent, but will disappoint fans who have grown accustomed to Jill’s voice as the soundtrack to their chronic malaise.
On The Mirror, Andrews stretches out and pulls back the curtain a bit to let sunshine and breeze in the room on songs like the up-tempo opening track “Sound of the Bells” and the superstitious title-track “The Mirror.” Both display a conscious break from her alt-country roots and show off new influences and expertise. But the sunny sound is sometimes a smoke-screen for still deeply-affecting lyrics; “Wake up, Nico,” for example, is a morning song to Jill’s son full of both the joys of parenthood and the fears, worries, and regrets that go along with raising a child. Jill has become an expert here and on other songs throughout The Mirror of artfully capturing emotional paradox.
This isn’t to say that The Mirror doesn’t have a little of that trademark Jill Andrews heartache. “Cut and Run”, a lovely ode to better memories and bitter realities, is Andrews at her subtle best. The song starts with a simple piano and acoustic guitar before arcing into a stormy midsection and back while Andrews sarcastically capitulates: “You can tell all your friends that I just cut and run when it got too tough.” You’ll also find a bit of that same resolute sadness on the track “Sinking Ship” but like most of the album, the song doesn’t wallow in despair but accepts it as a condition of humanity and pushes on through. Indeed, The Mirror is a portrait of emotional endurance, and as such is a promise that Jill Andrews is at the beginning of a wonderful and long-abiding career.