Jessica Rotter has quite an impressive resume for an upcoming indie-pop artist. She’s worked with Carole King, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Sam Smith, Alicia Keys and countless others. Her full length album Plains stands out for what it is not: overproduced. Every vocal, every instrument, every arrangement is in place and fulfills its duties on the album as Rotter experiments with indie and even goes country. The resulting album highlights her classical training and innate skill, proving that she is quickly earning her place among the great names with whom she’s worked.
“Aflame” is a slow-tempo, epic love song. “I burn, How I need you” Rotter hauntingly sings over eerie chants. As each chorus swells, the song truly comes alive and aflame, if you will. Rotter’s love is almost palpable; it can be heard in her voice and felt in the production of the song, coming together to form one fiery love song. The beautiful lyrics on “Aflame” flow from one verse to the next effortlessly, a heartfelt outpouring of emotion. Anyone would be lucky to have a song like “Aflame” written for them.
There’s a country vibe to “Stars”, with its gentle guitar and other strings that will lull you to sleep gently and peacefully. It’s no surprise that Rotter has worked with legends like Carole King — her voice sounds strikingly similar to King’s on “Stars” and several other tracks.
“Pray For Rain” is arguably one of Plains’ best and most radio-friendly tracks with its toe-tapping beat, snaps, claps, and all. “Pray For Rain” is much more uptempo, but still refuses to color inside the lines; the track is both electric and mystifying, managing to be enjoyable from start to end with more of Rotter’s signature vivid lyrics and a production that never feels predictable. In the clip for the single, Rotter’s aesthetic brings to mind comparisons to Lana Del Rey. Indeed, the two artists share a similar lo-fi retro image that suits their indie-sadpop music well. Tracks on Plains would sound at home on a playlist with Del Rey’s earlier work (before Born to Die), which is a sure sign that with some faith and persistence, Rotter can easily break into the mainstream without compromising her sound or image.
Rotter is joined by harpist Lara Somogyi for “Flowers in My Head”, and the result is a truly heavenly and ethereal track. “I’ve never lived the colors in my mind / You make me breathe and sing them all the time. Brilliant blooms, I’ll always be tied. / I’ve got flowers in my head, blooming just for you.” This is both another beautiful love song, but also can easily be interpreted as a song about self acceptance and personal growth. The beautiful ideas we have in our minds can’t be realized if we do not nurture them; by choosing to love yourself and doing what you truly enjoy, the metaphorical garden in your life will bloom and you will know true happiness. “Flowers In My Head” is a testament to that.
“Flying Off” strikes as a Tarantino dream with its slow building instrumental intro. It’s so easy to imagine this track, from its lyrics to its cinematic production, right at home on the silver screen. The song in itself is a bit of an epic, with a runtime of over six minutes. “Flying Off” may benefit from a more radio-friendly edit for more casual listeners, but fans of Rotter’s and fans of beautiful instrumentals alike will appreciate the song’s runtime in all of its glory.
Rotter returns to her country-infused sound on “Winter Sun”, but make no mistakes — Rotter’s country is the purest sense of the genre. “Winter Sun” is not a pop/country crossover track, like something you’d expect from Carrie Underwood or even Shania Twain, but rather it is more comparable to music Tanya Tucker or Loretta Lynn would make. “Move me like the winter sun,” Rotter pleads, “Let me go, let me die on a horizon of blue and golden skies.”
Another slow, piano-driven track, “Lost Found” is Plains’ most popular track on iTunes, and it’s easy to see why. Of the tracks on Plains, “Lost Found” is Rotter at her best and most authentic. The song pairs a brooding and entrancing production with sanguine lyrics for a masterful effort that shines much like “Aflame” and “Pray For Rain”.
Rotter has gotten into her groove on “Hit The Ground” and “Porch Song”, with the former featuring more sweeping production and the latter being more stripped back with beautifully endearing lyrics.
Jessica Rotter’s Plains experiments with different sounds and genres as Rotter tries to find the sound that works best for her. Fortunately for her, she’s in quite a predicament — the soulful indie sound and the bluesy country tracks alike sound as though they were made for her. With an ear for beautiful instrumentals and a mind full of eloquent lyrics, perhaps Rotter doesn’t need to limit herself to one genre. While each song on Plains is enjoyable, you must listen to “Aflame”, “Pray For Rain”, “Winter Sun” and “Lost Found” to get a dose of the diverse medleys Rotter skillfully maneuvers. She may be praying for rain, but Plains shines through the darkest rainclouds.