These are some of the first lines from Sara Jackson-Holman’s new album, Didn’t Go To The Party, to be released this autumn on Expunged Records. Opening track “Monsoon” is an exploration of self and an embracing of contradictions, a theme which echoes throughout this work of lush, timeless orchestral pop. A classically-trained pianist as well as a pop singer-songwriter, Sara weaves together her varied musical loves (including Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Serge Gainsbourg and Erik Satie) into a rich and playful fabric.
Didn’t Go To The Party is introspective and contemplative, a long-playing answer in stereo to questions like: “what kind of woman am I? “what kind of woman have I been?”
In part, Didn’t Go To The Party explores the arc of romantic relationships. Sara sings of the way that affections wax, and then wane, like cycles of the moon. One such relationship of inspiration was with her longtime collaborator in the studio. They worked on the album even after their relationship had ended, and, for certain, the twilight of that romance was entangled with the creative process. A new friendship for the former lovers was born alchemically out of this time in the recording studio, laying these songs about their own shared experience to tape.
The title track speaks to the album’s creation and a facet of its creator. Sara grew up in the forested landscape of Eastern Oregon, and has always been comfortable with solitude. Her current home in Portland is a rustic cottage house, where she explored her inner life in a series of late night songwriting sessions. The process was a means of healing, and of assessing her spiritual growth as a newly single woman. Embracing the “loner” self was a vehicle for poetic revelation.
There is a subtle yet important coda to this narrative of solitude and singleness, found on the album’s lead single, “Run.” At first blush, it may sound lyrically like a traditional pop song. In actuality, it’s a love song for Sara’s female friends, the ones who supported her and inspired her through rocky emotional terrain. When she sings: if you want a partner in crime, I will be your girl, or more simply, this love is different, it’s with a distinctly feminine energy in mind.
Sara belongs to a close-knit friend group of female musicians, artists and makers, blossoming out of Portland’s thriving arts community. They’ve been known to throw elaborate costume parties and engage in all matter of practical magic, channeling everything from the opulent femininity of French Colonial fashion to the subversive feminism of the Czech New Wave. The element which unites their flights of fancy is always a sense of play, a joyful fount of creativity. The elegance and the honesty, which are both intrinsic to Didn’t Go To the Party, are dual products of this feminine understanding.
String arrangements from Jherek Bischoff (Xiu Xiu, Amanda Palmer) bolster the elegant and cinematic quality of Sara’s songwriting. Her heartrending pop songs are indeed fit for the screen, as she has already seen many placements on top television shows within the span her young career (Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, Orange is the New Black, Bones, Castle).
The road ahead looks promising for this talented and thoughtful artist.
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