It seems like I’ve been following Olivia Jean’s career for a while now, she got her start in The Black Belles before getting picked up by Jack White’s Third Man Records. Since then they released their debut, played with Stephen Colbert and then broke up, leaving Olivia to play on half of Third Man’s releases for the past couple years including Karen Elson, Wanda Jackson and Jack’s last album. But she’s finally released her own solo album titled Bathtub Love Killings, and it feels like the culmination of all her previous work into one amazing album, and she recorded over half the instrumentation on the record, usually only avoiding drums and occasionally bass.
The album opens on the seeming hip hop drums of “Mistakes” which turns into a bass driven, hit heavy song full of some great organ lines, and the strange vocal styling of Jean. The song’s solo while nothing insane pulls off more of the euphoria coming off the end of the song, and accompanied with the rushing drums really gives energy to the end of the song. “Merry Widow” is the strange parlor piano song, strange from the start its beat seems strange given the more rock flavour of the album, but it works well. The keyboard floating on top fills the sound great and the gritty distorted bridges with Jean’s angry harmonies are a nice switch to rock your head to.
“Reminisce” is definitely the lead single on the album, opening on a killer bass riff before kicking it up with guitar, it quickly changes gears for a eerie pre-chorus section with tones of echo and looming synth. This bursts into the great riffing in the chorus, playing with the main bass riff, but now so catchy that it drives you nuts. This song was also one of two tracks recorded completely by Jean.
“Green Honeycreeper,” my favourite track from the album, starts to show Jean’s bass-driven style, but it seems to be the perfect pallet for her strange vocal style. The multi-groove driven chorus, laced with funky organ is earcandy and the rush of the solo-bridge is vicious, before dropping back into the groove with some grit. This is also the only song I’ve ever seen list God as an artist, whose instruments are listed as Rain and Birds, a cute touch to the album notations.
“Haunt Me” slows things down to a mostly acoustic tone, but fills the sound with piano and a range of other percussion and other instruments for an amazing track that makes the album a much more complete package. “After The Storm” kicks things back into gear with a bass and drums driven song, with the albums best drums, and an amazing mix of piano and guitar playing on each others openings, it also has one of the more interesting grooves on the album.
“December” brings things as close to the Black Belles as possible with its dark tones, pre-chorus guitar groove and amazing organ part in the chorus. The song chugs through each verse, ignites the flame in each pre-chorus and explodes on these groove vs riff choruses. The bass grooves continue on “Excuses” one of the tracks on here with a bunch random kid’s voices, apparently related to bassist Dominic Davis. Despite this weirdness, the grooves and riffs here are so slick the song is a few tweaks away from being a swagger walk song.
The other all Olivia track comes in the shape of “Proof,” another more acoustic song, with hints of eerie psychedelia and some country too. Once again these small acoustic departures seem not out of place but great slow and stripped counterparts that make the album a truly powerful.
“Cat Fight” is as the title suggests a fight of guitars between protegé Olivia (On left channel guitar) and mentor Jack White (on Right). The fight doesn’t end there though, while Olivia’s organ provides great groove for the majority of the song, Jack’s theremin section provides an amazing bridge in the middle. Needless to say as a whole package this is one of the best albums of the year, far exceeding that of Jack White himself, and as a die hard Jack White fan I feel this is more in line with what he was doing a few years back, and why you may see it beat out Lazaretto on my best of 2014 lists.