NPR Song Of The Day: Jesse Sykes And The Sweet Hereafter, ‘The Air Is Thin’

Jesse Sykes' Like Love Lust The Open Halls Of The Soul is out now.
Jesse Sykes’ Like Love Lust The Open Halls Of The Soul is out now.

I recently saw Jesse Sykes And The Sweet Hereafter’s open a great set before Sparklehorse in Baltimore. Here’s a short write-up about her song “The Air Is Thin” from her album Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul, for NPR’s Song of the Day. To listen to the song go here.

Exploring Gothic Country’s Darkest Corners

“The Air Is Thin” by Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter from Like Love Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul

When singer Jesse Sykes and former Whiskeytown guitarist Phil Wandscher came together eight years ago, each was coming off a tumultuous breakup. So when they formed an intense musical bond — not to mention the band The Sweet Hereafter — the pair had enough painful life experiences between them to last a long music career. Appropriately, their third album, Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul, explores those dark corners of whiskey-drenched gothic country.

The band’s sonic scope remains expansive, with lilting horn sections, silvery strings and the ethereal tremolo of Wandscher’s guitar. The smoldering “The Air is Thin” evokes the feeling of sitting at the end of the bar in a lonely, dimly lit dive. Combining brokenhearted alt-country and warmly alluring psychedelic folk, the song functions as a sad, simmering, beautiful lament. Sykes’ vulnerable, flinty voice wilts as if trying to put her road-weary past behind her, as she sings, “Go to let go of all that you know / but first you need to be free.” It all builds to a cathartic closing-time refrain that only gets better with each new round.