Jordyn Blakely has been one of Brooklyn’s most in-demand drummers for well over a decade at this point, a musician very much at the heart of the community. An exceptional drummer and a wonderful presence, the years have seen her play in a myriad of great bands from Night Manager, Butter The Children, and Jackal Onasis to Stove, Maneka and most recently as part of the all-star line-up for Bartees Strange’s band. While those experiences allowed for Blakely to have a hand in the songwriting, we’ve long awaited the chance to hear an album that is entirely her own, but the wait is over. Smile Machine is Jordyn Blakely’s solo project, a reintroduction that pulls from her past experiences and reshapes them in her own vision on her debut EP, Bye For Now.
The record, due out July 16th via Exploding In Sound Records (Floatie, Thirdface, Pile), is the sound of confidence built in motion. It’s about pushing yourself to do what you know you can, and to see it through to the end. Songs are built around questioning relationships, oneself, and finding that space where you feel comfortable, where you feel at home. For something that’s very much rooted in searching, the song’s feel confident, driven, and self assured. This is a release of old tension and a step forward to a better future, leaving the unhealthy patterns of mental anguish behind. On lead single “Shit Apple” Blakely took inspiration from a Trailer Park Boys quote (very much out of context) that she said “made me think about how if you're not healthy on the inside, emotionally or mentally, it eventually spews out onto other parts of your life and people around you if you aren't taking care of yourself and your mental health.” Written primarily during a two year stretch that involved the end of a toxic relationship and the loss of her father, Blakely uses Smile Machine’s songs to work through mourning, guilt, crises of identity, and frustration. With “Pretty Today,” the lyrics revolve around what she describes as “feeling confused about who you truly are and want to be, the idea that “maybe you never really knew yourself and are trying to figure it out all over again.” The results are always stunning with a beautiful resolve that feels well earned, the sunshine that can only come after a rainstorm.
While the bones of the EP were recorded together with Dan Francia (The Feelies, Stove, Flagland) before the pandemic, Blakely says the EP took “a bit of a Frankenstein [approach] because the drums were recorded onto tape, then most everything else was recorded directly into different [computer] programs.” What started out a team effort as far as production went, once the lockdowns began it was up to Blakely to complete the tracking on her own, with the help of some friends in spots, allowing her the ability to focus on the performances. The piecemeal approach to it all creates a crackling bliss, one that’s based in shoegaze’s tonality with a DIY lo-fi mentality. It’s blown out and warm, with an ever present lived-in feel. The harshness of the layers and the sonic density are constantly in balance with Blakely’s gorgeous vocals and her dreamy melodies. Drawing influences from Elliott Smith, early Cat Power, Broadcast, and The Microphones, it’s easy to hear the structural touchstones of those seminal bands in Smile Machine’s debut. Bye For Now is warped and crackling pop music that’s thick with distorted melodies and big on heart. It’s the sound of healing.