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In the biography provided on her website, Jess Braun professes her love for the water, and the inspiration it has provided her and her music.  On her seven track debut, Waveside, Braun displays her ability to create a hard-rocking song and sing it with a beauty that is rather unique to that kind of sound.  Not only is her voice majestic and powerful, but the lyrics that Braun has created are simultaneously accessible and introspective, able to bring the listener in to the feelings she's expressing and keep them there to sort out the finer points of her wordplay.

Braun opens her album with "Sometimes;" gentle acoustic guitars provide a bed for brief lead guitar chords and Braun's gentle vocals.  As she sings about insecurities and the optimism that needs to be held onto when facing them, the song sounds as if it's beginning to build towards something bigger.  Sure enough, everything opens up in the chorus.  Braun's voice takes off the restraints while the rhythm section blasts away and the lead guitar rips through notes in raw fashion; the solo that follows later is also fantastic.  Overdubbed vocals and crashing drum fills keep the energy of the song going strong until it fades out on another guitar solo.

Braun follows up with "One Step," and it starts off with a greater deal of intensity then its predecessor did.  Braun rattles off lyrics about a girl trying to take "One step, then another...." through a tired life.  There's a good deal of imagery in the song, provided by lines like, "She's drowning in excess, of her liquid lover."  Strong musical performances come all around, just as she the did on "Sometimes," including another brief yet riveting guitar solo, and another staggeringly strong beat from the rhythm section. 

Though Braun's vocal performance is very strong on "One Step," it's even stronger on the following song, "Collide."  While it deals with the concept love, it's not entirely a typical lyric.  In the closing verse, Braun sings, "We could prove we're part of our own design/And make our choice again and again through time/We're all bouncing around and when we collide/Sometimes there's love…"  Though still powerful, the vocals showcase a gentle, warmer, and slightly vulnerable side to Braun's music, indicating just how dynamic she can be as a singer and songwriter. "Change" sounds like it could've been a sister track to "Collide" as it opens in very similar fashion.  Unlike the former, "Change" never takes off and ignites, and instead offers up a slow, smoldering burn, based around a deep, distorted guitar riff and a low-key vocal performance from Braun.  The song's power comes from this kind of dark atmosphere, coupled with more introspective lyrics, and a chilling, ghostly series of "Oooh's" that haunt the listener between verses. 

Braun's fifth track, "Transformation," is easily the most powerful of the seven songs.  Opening with echoing vocals and a single guitar, the song bursts open a little over a minute into it.  After she completes the first iteration of the chorus, a thundering drum track blasts the song along its course.  At the chorus, Braun sings, "If I could just get some inspiration/And enter through my transformation/Then every little thing in my life would be so beautiful/And I'd be satisfied."  All along, a monster of a bassline chugs along underneath her impassioned vocals.  In, around, and amongst this, is a mix of grinding and jangling guitars that somehow never overwhelm Braun's voice.  Saying it's the highlight of the album should not detract from how great the songs around it are, but serve to illustrate just how well constructed "Transformation" is.

The other two tracks on Waveside, the blues-inspired "Blue Muse" and album closer "Raincloud" are not without merit either.  The former is a sultry 3/4 number that relies heavily on a thudding bass part and the latter is akin to the gentle bombast of the album's opener, "Sometimes."  For being only seven songs long, there is a tremendous amount of depth on Waveside.  Jess Braun has a magnificent talent for being able to capture beauty and intensity through her vocals and songwriting and serve it up to the listener in a tidy, four minute package.  Like some of the waters that Braun has surely been in over the course of her life, this album is deep, beautiful, and bristling with a latent energy that washes over you once unleashed.

Review by Heath Andrews

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)