When Bad Guy by Billie Eilish won a Grammy, the potential of bedroom pop was there for the world to see. Music created in the humble chamber had climbed to the summits of the industry. Bedroom pop isn’t solely exclusive to 808s and the commercially accessible; in fact, it doesn’t have any boundaries. Contrary to most genres, it can span a plethora of sounds and types of music.
The brainchild of Jess Shoman, Tenci began as a folk project from the confines of her bedroom. Her creations are additive-free solutions to the glistening and seamless productions that dominate our mainstream airways.
Tenci’s most recent album, My Heart Is An Open Field, is fundamentally folk with a lashing of indie and strong country influences. So with the moonshine at the ready, let’s run through the record, track by track.
In fitting with the album title, Earthquake gives you a sense of open space. Beginning with sparse, atmospheric, suspenseful guitar, the track breaks into a solemn blues-style groove. The vocals of Shoman fiercely brands the song with a cattle iron to make it uniquely hers. Welcome to the heart of Tenci, and let’s roam the open field.
This track is playful like the Velvet Underground’s I’m Sticking With You. With sax touches by Spencer Radcliffe, the song dances away, and when the horse clip claps enter the fray, Tenci are truly creating a picture of horseback trails in the mountains.
Most songwriters cringe at the mention of their initial attempt at a music creation. Considering Serpent is one of the first songs Shoman wrote, she gets off to a flying start. Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to get bitten by a snake? This track imagines the sensation and is a preferable option than an actual rattlesnake bite. Dizzy and drifty, Serpent is a tranquillizing listen that won’t have you reaching for an antidote.
This song is a contagious waltzing shanty. Shoman showcases her songwriting talents, and accompanied by a swelling cello; it is an infectious, sincere and precious moment on the album. A voicemail by Hortencia Shoman gives Blue Spring a personal feel. Hortencia is Jess’ grandmother and is the inspiration behind the band name Tenci.
Forgot My Horse’s Name
For those seeking a deeper meaning to Forgot My Horse’s Name, search no more. “It is quite literally about a time I went horseback riding and afterwards forgot my horse’s name”, says Shoman. Reminiscent of old country songs with waltzing guitars and lap steel surges, the accompanying music video captures the vibe perfectly. Take a step back, and you may find a subtle You & Me era Walkmen about it.
Sounding like a whiskey lullaby, Joy is a soothing bedtime yodel to flutter you away deep into the night. By now you’ll be very familiar with the quintessential Tenci sound. Joy is just that, but with added glockenspiel that pings around this smooth and comforting track.
Tenci are kind enough to offer a double dose of joy. Joy 2 is a cleverly thought out song. It begins quite naturally, and then the melody shifts. The use of the upright piano latches onto a soaring chorus line to ensure this is noticeable through its pure class. It climaxes with harmonies and rotating synths. Joy 2 is a sweet ditty with a stark and bold chorus that will pull at the heartstrings. It might just be a champagne moment that stands out from the crowd.
This song shuffles and dances at a delightful toe-tapping tempo. It drives along like an upbeat folk track that would make the perfect accompaniment for a romantic road trip.
My Heart Is An Open Field
Tenci concludes the album with the title track, My Heart Is An Open Field. Riding off into the sunset, the journey is complete. The flute jams along as the pedal steel waves us good riddance.
So there we have it. The nine tracks that make up My Heart Is An Open Field. Jess Shoman’s voice is categorically unique and offers the all-important character to separate it from the norm. It is sultry like Karen O but breaks into delicate vibratos throughout the album. With music sounding similar to a cradle-rocking Hank Williams classic but with added folk sentiments, bedroom pop takes a walk in the open plains.
The music on mainstream radio is perfectly produced, some may argue with such precision it has become stale. My Heart Is An Open Field is far from sterile. It has the hums of equipment and is as natural as can be. This is one of the album’s huge charms, it breaths with life and acts as a beacon for a return to vinyl culture.
Long live bedroom pop.