The 50 best albums of 2022: No 7 – Jockstrap: I Love You Jennifer B
The highly original, dubstep-informed debut by Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye sidestepped easy categorisation to deliver complex and unsettled music for complex and unsettled times without invoking a litany of their forebears
If you only listened to the first 30 seconds of Jockstrap’s extraordinary debut album, you might deduce that I Love You Jennifer B is a gentle folk record. But Georgia Ellery’s lilting voice singing about hills over a gently discordant acoustic guitar is a feint. Stick with it just a few seconds more and you’ll find yourself in a musical landslide where everything from Game Boy SFX and deep, throbbing dubstep to classical violin and comedy vocal effects collide into each other – often within a single track.
Ellery is accompanied by fellow Guildhall graduate Taylor Skye on production and together they pan for nuggets of sound that have never been put together before. Everything that makes a noise is fair game as they plunder every genre for a possible production style here, a unique chord progression there. I Love You Jennifer B should sound like a nightmare – and sometimes it does – but there’s a current of fun that holds it all together: the cartoonish chopping and reassembling of vocals reminds you that this album is not as po-faced or art-school as it might sound on paper. Though their influences range from the classic songwriting of Stevie Wonder and the pop bravado of Madonna to esoteric jazz and global rhythms, you could argue that Jockstrap’s main influence is dubstep. You can hear a form of the pounding, amphetamine-adjacent, bass-heavy genre reverberating through and energising almost every track on I Love You Jennifer B – occasionally as a wink but more often as a directive to move.
Amid the chaos, the folky element endures. Ellery sings as though she’s Ophelia heading to the lake, of struggle and travel and love and hate, all underpinned by production that spins her words into different worlds. On the fantastic high point Concrete Over Water, dubstep squeals ping around military drums while Ellery weaves a haunting melody in an impossibly high register about – what? A city, a lover, self-loathing and architecture, light and dark? It plays like a search for an answer, although we never quite find out the question…