New York – I’m big on supporting new bands and I love lo-fi garage rock, post-punk, and varying slants of shoegaze, but every once in a while I like to get a little classy too. This past Thursday I had the privilege of attending an ultra-refined insider only show at The Standard Village East, a hotel with beautiful manicured gardens, ridiculously beautiful people coming and going, and apparently a hip little venue downstairs and around the way. It was a fitting setting to take in a stunning set from singer songwriter Jihae.
Based in New York, by way of Nigeria, Sweden, and the UK, the South Korean born Jihae has a voice that emanates her worldly experiences with smoke and soul. It’s got depth like a lake you can’t find the bottom of, and a way of conveying emotion so strong that you feel it too. It’s a voice that you don’t forget easily after hearing it. The fact that she collaborated with Leonard Cohen and Dave Stewart on a song off her new album, Illusion of You, is a testament to her atmospheric noir talents.
When she took that stage under the red light of the dark venue, she even looked like edgy royalty, in a tailored and tattered Game of Thrones-like jacket and a confident swagger. She was joined by a bassist, drummer, guitarist, and violinist, all who helped realize her musical creations and play through a bunch of the new songs off that new album, slated to come out this fall; songs full of metaphors, personal experiences, observations, and intrigue.
Her concise banter in between songs was just the right amount to give insight into the songs that Jihae and the band was playing, but it was never too much to take you out of the moment. She introduced almost every single one, and clued us in that this was largely a bohemian record, as much of it was recorded in the Bahamas. Then they played “Sea,” and someone near by summed it up well when they declared loudly, “Yes, that was like we were just in the Bahamas.” Corny but true, Jihae and crew took us out of the moment of being in what was essentially a basement room in the middle of a busy city, and eased our minds into a more relaxed state.
When they got to “Lullaby For the Lonely People,” Jihae announced that this was one of the first songs she ever wrote, but had added an extra verse or two for the new record. Actually, before explaining that she expertly managed to quiet the crowd by saying she was thinking about not playing the next one since it was only vocals and acoustic guitar. That sure got everyone to quit their background gossiping. When she started strumming an acoustic guitar, and whistling – which she is really good at – all eyes and ears were on her. I really don’t think enough folks whistle in songs anymore. Right after that she plugged herself graciously again, simply asking, “Have you seen the video for “Illusion of You”? The crowd gave an enthusiastic yes, and that was the song they went into.
Towards the end of the set she announced the track that she wrote with Leonard Cohen and Dave Stewart, and informed us that it was a song about an orgasm – gasp! Just a little ditty titled “It Just Feels.” Sexual innuendo aside, “it just feels” was an apt way to sum up her performance. It was all felt, most of all by her, but as a result of that by everyone present. That’s the mark of a good performer – they make you feel the reasons they had for creating this art you are now witnessing.