By Alli Patton
While at times overpowered by her dizzying tone and more-is-more lyricism, the album is a beautifully reflective, seductively melancholy and overall enjoyable listen.
Release Date: 3/3/23
Producer: Karen Jonas & Seth Morrissey
1. Paris Breeze
2. The Breakdown
3. Lay Me Down
4. Elegantly Wasted
5. That's Not My Dream Couch
7. Rock the Boat
8. Drunken Dreamer
9. We Could Be Lovers
10. Throw Me To the Wolves
11. Lay Me Down (acoustic)
Cracking open Karen Jonas’ storybook record, The Restless, unleashes a torrent of vulnerable lyrics and dreamy melodies. Intimate tales of ill-fated lovers, drunken dreamers and ex-wives in grocery stores pour from the tracks, eleven songs all strung together by the alt-country songwriter’s raw and whimsical storytelling.
As Jonas turns each page, her warm, weightless vocals weave the narrative from song to song. Conversational one moment, full of conviction the next, her voice - while at times tinged with a Disney princess-like lilt - commands listeners’ attention.
The Restless is a project that finds Jonas grappling with vulnerability and investment, offering the perfect introduction in the atmospheric ‘Paris Breeze.’ The track certainly sets the tone, Jonas’ voice breathless against a defiant beat as she sings; “Maybe after all this / I’m still searching”.
Hot country licks sear through several of the songs, including ‘The Breakdown’, an amusing tune textured by sizzling steel, and the feverish ‘Lay Me Down’, an apprehensive ballad that builds to a dizzying climax of moaning strings and desperate keys.
Drifting in on a traditional country arrangement, ‘Elegantly Wasted’ waltzes to its own neon-glinting lap steel and tender beat. “I’m feeling elegantly wasted” Jonas sings; “Like Cinderella in the moonlight / Will you still love me in the morning / Just the way you do tonight?”
Where other tracks on the record merely whisper, some explode into swinging jazz, as with the quirky ‘That’s Not My Dream Couch’, or haunt the atmosphere with the bare bones eeriness of ‘Rock the Boat’, in which the singer’s airy words cast some kind of backwoods spell.
What’s most telling is that many songs on The Restless could make a home anywhere, with songs such as ‘We Could Be Lovers’ – part sleepy honky tonk, part smokey coffeehouse drawl – existing somewhere in the in-between.
The album explores rich narratives and complex characters, some of its lyricism possessing the same weight as a piece of literature. ‘Drunken Dreamer’ is another story-song about the winners, losers and drunken dreamers who burn bright, fade fast and make us believe in legends.
‘Forever’, meanwhile, is a voyage along sidewalks, in and out of shops with bags full of bittersweet memories. The song lulls listeners into a false comfort, before the recurring line, “way back when you were my lover,” lets reality sink in.
The Restless gets a storybook ending, coming to a close as it begins with Karen Jonas’ skill as a songsmith on full display. While at times overpowered by her dizzying tone and more-is-more lyricism, the album is a beautifully reflective, seductively melancholy and overall enjoyable listen.
Karen Jonas' sixth album, The Restless, is released March 3rd 2023.
For more Karen Jonas, see below: