Family Video, a project of Jen King’s, has released four albums now, and this is her third since March of 2014. It’s also their best album yet, and is the perfect soundtrack for a lazy winter Sunday on your couch. If you own a heart and have ever loved someone, this album will find its way into your core.
On Places to Sleep, King has traded in the variety of sounds found on previous albums for a calmer and more consistent sound that still channels her melancholic vibe wonderfully well. Better, in fact, than ever.
There’s no rockers per se, like “Last Night She Said” and “Sitting in My Room” on this new album. Instead it’s a string of affecting slower songs, but they avoid being sleepy; the only acoustic track is a revisited version of “Winter Shadow” as a closer, and there are plenty of great bridges and breakdowns and outros that are nothing short of rock and roll.
The guitar work defines the album: King has a unique and fluid approach to the guitar that has created a sound recognizably “Family Video.” It’s quite unlike anyone else’s playing in town, and using an electric guitar instead of an acoustic further defines her sound – the guitar tones add additional ache to the pining in the words and the pierce of her vocals.
The more refined and subdued sound on Places to Sleep is clearly a sweet spot of a comfort zone for King’s songwriting and singing. They both shine here, and amplify the mood on display in the first few Family Video offerings.
While her first albums were good with some great songs, this new one is great through and through. There’s added confidence and craftsmanship taking hold of the band’s primary songwriter, and bandmates like Noah Bender, Aaron Powell, and Jake Nicoll all add the right touches without overwhelming or getting in the way of the core of the song.
“Aaron in the Basement,” a standout track, shows off the band the most, and how well they all understand each other on Places to Sleep.
There’s something in the timbre of Jen’s voice that adds urgency to the feel of a Family Video song, and amps up the melancholia in lines like “could you be my winter coat when I need someone to hang around me?,” or in sentiments as simple as “Nights just go so slow when you’re in an empty bed.”
The consistency in concept and lyrical themes on Places to Sleep builds a narrative capturing the throb of being young and in love with life getting in the way. Lyrically, the album is desire and devotion in equal measure. Take a line as simple in its poignancy as “I wanna watch your hair grow.”
Overall, this is the best album to date from one of St. John’s most distinct bands. Add “Winter Shadow,” “The Attic,” “Aaron in the Basement,” and “Find You” to your next playlist for sure.