Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul
In much of Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter are a throwback to the experimental and explosive era of singer/songwriter reminiscent of the 1960s and the 1970s. Sykes’ voice has a rough, smoky quality that sounds almost genderless at times, evoking nostalgia about when music was all about challenge and experimentation. Of course, the experiment is not always successful (“The Air is Thin” comes to mind), and parts of the album feel more forced by concept than organic. But the more Sykes sticks to her alt-country sound, like in the eponymous “Open Halls of the Soul,” the more familiar and comfortable the song is, each track with a twang like a favorite pair of shoes: nothing fancy, but good to walk around in for a spell.
For those willing to forgive Sykes and the missteps she takes with trying to teach old sounds new tricks, there is much benefit to be found in her more contemporary alt-country vibe, the blend of an edgy voice with the ease of a well-traveled road. Though through much of the album Sykes wants to conjure up the ghosts of women declaring liberation, she is much more successful establishing her presence of a contemporary woman, jaded by the past, but still demanding and deserving of the very same things.