Queen of Jeans Explore Cyclical Heartbreak on All Again

On their Will Yip-produced third album, the Philadelphia indie rockers reckon with the highs and lows of a tumultuous, undefined love affair.

Music Reviews Queen of Jeans
Queen of Jeans Explore Cyclical Heartbreak on All Again

All Again is not a breakup album. At least, not exactly. It’s hard to tell exactly what there is to end. The central relationship of Queen Of Jeans’ third album floats in a perpetual state of “What are we?” Lead vocalist Miriam Devora and the fair-weather object of her unwavering and unwise affection are trapped in an on-again/off-again cycle marked by the astronomical highs of colliding together and the dismal lows of pulling apart. This almost-attainable crush/hookup/partner brings the entire world with her whenever she decides to re-enter Devora’s orbit, and takes it all away when she inevitably and abruptly leaves. This person’s all-consuming magnetism overshadows all other (better) influences in Devora’s life. The push-and-pull of their undefined relationship mimics that of Devora’s internal conflict: one moment she’s determined that true love is within her reach and that she can turn their entanglement into something serious, the next she’s resigned to play whatever role the person needs her to play at any given moment. “You could know love if you’d only hear me out,” she pleads on “Enough To Go Around.”

This desperation is most unabashed on “Horny Hangover,” a pop-rock ballad with a sprinkle of twang to it. The ability to wreak much more emotional havoc than a song called “Horny Hangover” should be allowed. “Let’s start at the top / I fell desperately in love / With someone I knew was bound to fuck me up” is a behemoth of an opening line, especially when the soft, fake-out acoustic guitar gets stampeded over by the drums charging in. Devora’s cheeky ad-libs (the smirking “All I can say is…” before the first chorus and the defeated “Fuck it” before the last) cinch the already-brimming-with-personality track together.

While “Horny Hangover” drops us directly into the throes of this hopeless romance, the opener that directly precedes it, “All My Friends,” acts as All Again’s tone-setter, particularly for the way its narrative revolves around the gravitational pull of this one person. “No one sees me like you see me / And I’m convinced without your voice I’d float away,” Devora sings, before confessing to reading the news of whatever city her crush happens to be in, just to feel the slightest bit closer to her. It’s probably not much more than coincidence that this track shares its title, slow-building structure and themes of loneliness with a certain LCD Soundsystem classic, though the similarities end there.

While the dynamic between the album’s central sometimes-lovers is compelling to follow, some of the most striking songs are the ones in which Devora’s love interest is defined by her absence. This withdrawn partner comes and goes as she pleases, and when she’s going, the distance forces Devora to fill the empty space with her own internal conflicts—giving the listeners insight into how insistently present this person manages to be even when they’re nowhere to be found. We see the hobbies that Devora tried and fails to use as distractions. On the flickering dream-punk ballad “Karaoke,” she tries to drown her sorrows in cover songs—only to realize halfway through the performance that her mic’s been off the whole time. “I’ve been careful on my own,” Devora belts during a chorus that dissects this person’s power over her (“When I fixate on my flaws you build me up / We watch them fall / I wish you could hold me ‘til I break them all.”) Adding to its appeal on a more meta level is the fact that “Karaoke” would make a great karaoke song. When singing other people’s songs for strangers doesn’t work, Devora turns to literature on the hazy heartland rocker “Books in Bed,” only to end up even lonelier. When the whole band joins in to sing “They said it wouldn’t hurt so bad,” it hurts just right.

The heart-racing “Bitter Pill” zeroes in on the bounciness of the rhythm section and amps up the fleecy warmth of Devora’s voice and wraps the listener up in it, making for an energetic, defiant punk track where Devora calls it quits: “I don’t wanna bend my mind to anybody’s will / I don’t need you to know what’s real / I don’t wanna bide my time while you are sitting still / I don’t want that bitter pill.” She only kicks the habit for so long, though. On the very next song, Devora comes crawling back. The titular double-entendre of “Go Down Easy” is the gateway to one of the saddest booty calls documented in a song. Devora’s voice is at its softest and sweetest; she can’t even sing the “God damn you / And I mean it” hook without the help of gang vocals, a musical manifestation of her inability to stand up for herself in the face of continual heartbreak.

This is the record where Queen Of Jeans have mastered both the banger-to-ballad ratio, and the banger-to-ballad transition. With the help of Grammy-nominated producer Will Yip, they’re covering more instrumental and aesthetic ground than they ever have before. Yip’s production lends cohesion to these sonically diverse tracks, magnifying the record’s more dramatic moments, sanding down odd edges without making Queen of Jeans’ sound too sanitized and roughing songs up when they’re on the verge of getting a little too pretty. This range is perhaps most surprising on the minuscule closer and pseudo-title track “Do It All Again,” which opts for angelic ‘60s girl group vocals fading into faraway fuzz, repeating its sole couplet: “I got to do it all again / I’d find you there like I did back then.” It plays in rotation, the cycle continues, haunting and beautiful enough to make you want to start from the beginning and relive the whole thing—as the title suggests—All Again.

Watch Queen of Jeans’ Paste Session from 2019 below.

Grace Robins-Somerville is a writer from Brooklyn, New York, currently based in Wilmington, North Carolina. She is pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Her work has appeared in The Alternative, Merry-Go-Round Magazine, Post-Trash, Swim Into The Sound and her “mostly about music” newsletter, Our Band Could Be Your Wife.

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