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defend the album is a lyrics-first blog by me, bradley fields, about the stories and moments I find in albums that matter to me. Almost always in fewer than 1,000 words.

Jessie Ware's Glasshouse

Jessie Ware’s Glasshouse is an anthology of stories plucked from shelves inside the space her relationship built. That space is fragile but strengthened by how dearly they’ve nurtured their time together and how eager they are to protect the promise of what’s to come.

When I’m fading, you’re the only one who inspires.

Everything happens in Midnight. Its setting: Jessie on the verge of beginning and end. That foundation has range, particularly when Jessie talks about what is or could be new. There’s newness in her uncertainty: “Maybe I love you.” There’s newness in her hope: “I keep dreaming about a world where we are an item.” And there’s newness in her expectations: “Don’t let me fall through, now that I need you.” 

All of it’s wrapped in an appeal that sounds like the intersection of Gladys’s Meet Me in the Middle and Anita’s Caught Up in the Rapture. Aurally, the track is at its best when day breaks at the chorus with Lisa Stansfield-ish sound.

I just wanna feel every little beat when I’m thinking ‘bout you.

In a track-by-track breakdown, Jessie said Thinking About You is about mother’s guilt. She pushes against that guilt with assurances. She loves being a mom: “I don’t wanna sleep; I don’t wanna leave; I don’t want a way out.” And she makes there’s-more-in-me-for-you-than-you’ll-ever-know promises (“You don't see me falling, even… when I'm falling for two”).

To tell you the truth, I could use more than a vision of you.

Stay Awake, Wait for Me is about space Jessie wants to close. The promise of nearness (“It only happens when you’re here next to me”) and the anticipation of the magic in those moments (“We could lock into the same melody”) also come with a clue about the amount of time they’ve been together: “Something so sweet, like the first time.”

Stay Awake’s actualization (“Tonight, we’ve got no need to dream”) also speaks to the hopes Jessie has in Your Domino. In Domino, she wants to trust him (after whatever he’s apologizing for) and needs the comfort of his sympathy (“Left to my imagination, it’s a long way down”) to do so.

Say I won’t make the same mistakes when we’re older.

Help me forgive myself. Tell me we’ll grow together. Promise we’ll be together long enough to try. These are Alone’s themes. “Say that you’re the one who’s taking me home” stirs images of a couple at a party trading glances across a crowded room, or slight touches of hands held low at their sides, as signals that it’s time to go.

It’s an expression of commitment—not indefinitely, forever—and pairs well with the love-since-17 moment we hear later in Sam. It’s also a great segue for Selfish Love, a song that opens kind of like The Cardigans’ Lovefool, and then celebrates familiarity with each other’s mistakes and the appeal of being the only ones who get to know them (“Dodging bullets—now ain’t that romantic?”).

Let’s just fall back in, back into the start, like it’s new.

In First Time, Jessie’s eager to recreate romance. Her persistence is commitment: “Not leaving til I get you to show me.” She wants to rekindle rather than give in (“Baby, now’s the time to pull me in close”). She’s not asking for the absence of change; she wants devotion through it.

Put on a brave face. Act like an earthquake didn’t come.

Something shook the characters in Hearts. I hope I never hurt anyone like this again: “If I could ask a smoking gun how it feels to hurt someone, I would just ask you.” With words about the damage done to the space they built, we also get maybe the closest tie to the fragility implied by the album title.

I could take all of you. It’s still not enough.

Slow Me Down reminds me of Diana Krall’s A Case of You. Its “What if I’m not the one you thought I would be?” is so relatable it feels like a personal attack. What if we change at, in, or with incompatible speeds, directions, or motivations?

Its “Baby, you slow me down” says you’re my calm and I don’t want to get so lost in me that I drift away from you. So, show me it’s safe to latch on to you, that being tied to you won’t rid me of me (“If you tell me we’ll never stop”). And it sets up the I-want-your-kiss passion in Finish What We Started nicely.

Let’s be alone together, where the sky falls through the river.

My god, the Paul Buchanan fit on Last of the True Believers. The song’s a celebration of what people can survive and outlast through commitment. “Pick up on my prayers” is the call to make things one wants most come true. Just the act of asking for that empowers him, telling him he can. This is what the relationship and album have been building towards.

I hope I’m as brave as my mother.

Sam sparks the whole record. Having a baby led Jessie to look back at their growth as a couple. It’s a retrospective that mentions a rift with her father (“I found a man far from my father”), but only as the hope her mother knows her daughter is happier than she was—a perspective I imagine she now understands better than before.

But it glows with “From 17, the only love I’ve known.” The reflection that allows. It’s easy to imagine her writing much of this album in the places she describes in this song: at a train station, overhearing people talking about their kids; at a bar thinking about her childhood. It’s a gorgeous outro, and the fluttering newness the trumpet solo announces at the end is one hell of a conclusion.


Notes

Release date

October 20, 2017

Producers

Bastian Langebaek · Benny Blanco · Cashmere Cat · Felix White · Frederik Ball · Happy Perez · Hugo White · John Ryan · Julian Bunetta · Kid Harpoon · Pop Wansel · Sammy Witte · Starsmith · Stint · Two Inch Punch

Writers

A. S. Govere · Ajay Battacharya · Ammar Malik · Bastian Langebaek · Benjamin Ash · Benjamin Levin · Christopher Dave · Danny Parker · Dave Okumu · Edward Christopher Sheeran · Felix White · Finlay Dow-Smith · Francis Farewell Starlite · Frederik Ball · Giuseppe Palladino · Hugo White · James Newman · Jamie Scott · Jessie Ware · John Ryan · Jordan Thomas · Julia Michaels · Julian Bunetta · Kiah Victoria · Liam Howe · Magnus August Høiberg · Nathan Perez · Nico Segal · Nina Nesbitt · Pop Wansel · Ross Golan · Ryan Tedder · Samuel Preston · Sarah Aarons · Thomas Hull

Anderson East's Encore

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings' Soul of a Woman