Poet and songwriter Jenny Berkel’s forthcoming new album, These Are the Sounds Left from Leaving is set for release on May 13th via Outside Music. Each song is set in the micro-world of a keen feeling observer, trying to parse a mindful moment in a setting where it feels impossible to drop a truth anchor – a post-Trump, heavily gaslit world where perceptions of reality remain distorted. “I wrote the album in a tiny apartment, at a time when everything felt big and overwhelming,” says Berkel about her new album. “The songs themselves are a study of proximity, bringing big fears into small spaces,” says Jenny, reflecting on the album. “They’re intimate examinations of a world that often overwhelms.” The album features contributions from critically acclaimed folk duo Kacy & Clayton, and string arrangements by Colin Nealis (Andy Shauf)—and for the first time, Jenny took on a production role, co-producing alongside Dan Edmonds and Ryan Boldt (The Deep Dark Woods). “I wanted the songs to feel like living creations that capture a living moment,” says Jenny about envisioning the recording process. “I wanted that theme of big fears in small spaces to be heard and felt as a coexistence of intimacy and menacing permeability.”
Jenny Berkel released so far two records (and an EP) and a chapbook, Grease Dogs, with Baseline Press.
What She Says: ” “Kaleidoscope,” the first single from the album, is a dissonant and poetic consideration of the importance of care and precision in language, both in the broader political landscape and in intimate emotional ways. From the heart-wrenching confusion of interpersonal manipulation, it extrapolates a collectively felt disorientation at the kaleidoscopic swirling of disinformation and misinformation.”
Her Mixtape: “This is a playlist of some of my favourite gentle & moving songs. Soft textures and sounds. Tear-makers. Songs that sit deep in the heart.“
Blake Mills – Summer All Over
The second I first heard this song I was completely enamoured. I’m sure I’ve listened to this at least a hundred times since its release on Earth Day in 2020. It evokes a strange and moving calm in the context of environmental doom. His voice is so gentle—this is a song that hurts my heart. The whole album is beautiful, but this is the song I listen to over and over again.
Nina Simone – Please Read Me
There is no singer more emotive than Nina Simone. When she sings “please read me” in this song, it makes me feel desperate to do so, and then it makes me desperate for somebody to read me too. This is a Bee Gees song originally, but their version doesn’t carry the same emotion. I’ve listened to her version so many times and it never fails to move me.
Sufjan Stevens – Death with Dignity
This whole album (Carrie & Lowell) is a masterpiece of gentleness. I had been a fan prior to its release, but this is by far my favourite of his albums. It’s hard to choose just one song from it. But this song—and album—will always remind me of flying across the ocean all alone on my way to Europe for a tour, full of nerves for what was ahead and sadness for a relationship that I’d left behind.
Connie Converse – The Ash Grove
The melody of this traditional song is so beautiful, and her arrangement is so gentle. I love how the recording sounds too. It makes me want to get in a room with a bunch of people just for the joy of singing together, something I/we haven’t been able to do very much these last few years.
Sharon Van Etten – Love More
I first heard this song while I was living in a little studio apartment in Winnipeg, Canada. It was the middle of winter and I was listening to the radio late at night, looking out at the snowy street below. This song came on and hit me hard. It was my first time hearing Sharon Van Etten’s music, and it’s still probably my favourite of her songs.
Phosphorescent – Song for Zula
I love everything about this song. I suppose what really ties all of these songs together is these singers’ voices. All of them carry so much emotion in their voices. Their voices feel full of living. This song is maybe more produced than some of the other songs, but his voice on top of it feels so rich.
Judee Sill – The Kiss
I spent a long time without Judee Sill’s music in my life. I didn’t like it when I first heard it, and then suddenly I loved it. The string and vocal arrangements are always so beautiful, and she has such an interesting texture of voice. There’s a feeling of sacredness in these songs.