Album Reviews

Cassandra Jenkins – My Light, My Destroyer

(Dead Oceans) UK release date: 12 July 2024

There’s a quiet power in the unobtrusive nature of these songs that are destined to salve your soul in troubled times, like a light slowly coming into focus after a dark period

Cassandra Jenkins - My Light, My Destroyer Cassandra Jenkins‘ third album wasn’t really meant to exist. Feeling tired and drained after the release of her wondrous album An Overview On Phenomenal Nature, the Brooklyn musician swore to fulfil her promotional duties and then move onto something else. Maybe, if album standout Hard Drive hadn’t gone viral, she may never have changed her mind.

Thankfully she did, as three and a half years later, My Light, My Destroyer is with us, and appears destined to appear on many a ‘Best Albums of 2024’ list come the end of the year. It is, without fear of exaggeration, an beautiful, beguiling record that playfully crosses across genres and has a rare emotional power that, at various points, hits you right in the gut. It’s the type of record that, after just one play, you know will stay with you for many months.

It also feels like a huge step forward for Jenkins, with many tracks on the album feeling miles away from the folky dream-pop which made her name. Opening track Devotion unfolds beautifully, beginning as a hushed acoustic ballad before Jenkins’ band slowly kick in, eventually employing a gorgeously muted trumpet in the song’s coda.

Then, not for the last time, there’s an abrupt turn into crunchy indie-rock on Clams Casino – there’s a beautifully yearning quality to the way that Jenkins sings “I don’t wanna laugh alone anymore”, which somehow sound even more poignant laid alongside the song’s ringing guitar riff. It may feel like a volte-face from the preceding acoustic lull, but in the best possible way.

Lyrically, there’s a focus on the stars – literally at times, as on Betelgeuse which is simply Jenkins and her mother talking about stargazing while a jazzy, ambient piano and harmonica tinkle away in the background – while there’s even a 44 second instrumental dedicated to Star Trek actor William Shatner. One of the album’s many standout tracks, Aurora IL, even references Shatner’s real life trip into space with Jeff Bezos (when the actor became the oldest person to ever go into orbit), and it sways and swoons so dramatically it becomes impossibly moving.

Elsewhere, it almost seems as if Jenkins is trying to motivate herself onwards – “chin up! Stay on task! Wash the windows!” runs one line on the stately Delphinium Blue, and the heart-stoppingly lovely Omakase sees her beg for someone to “pull me apart, put me back together” as strings and synths build up so powerfully it almost becomes overwhelming.

There are also nods to more traditional indie-rock – Petco so perfectly replicates The Bends-era Radiohead that you’d swear that was Jonny Greenwood on lead guitar, while the penultimate Only One is a gorgeously blissful affirmation of love that could easily be a track by 80s Glasgow cult band The Blue Nile (currently undergoing a renaissance of their own after being name-checked by Taylor Swift).

It’s the sort of album that, as soon as the little instrumental closer of Hayley finishes, you’ll want to go straight back to the start and listen again. Rather like Mitski, who Jenkins has supported in the past, there’s a quiet power in the unobtrusive nature of these songs – these are tracks that are destined to salve your soul in troubled times. My Light, My Destroyer feels like a light slowly coming into focus after a dark period, and, in no small way, seems like Cassandra Jenkins’ masterpiece.

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Cassandra Jenkins – My Light, My Destroyer