Two years ago this month, Nashville was in shambles like many have never seen.
In the beginning of March, an EF3 tornado swept across parts of Nashville and surrounding towns, leaving many in the community homeless and having to rebuild their lives. A few short weeks later, the global pandemic hit and doubled the trauma and uncertainty for Nashvillians.
But songwriter Juniper Vale was one such artist who looked to the future and saw brighter days ahead. From the surrounding hardships, the indie pop artist decided that it was time for her to capture her feelings and experiences by writing her second LP, Suddenly What?!.
Suddenly What?! has been a passion project like no other, as it’s more like a part of Vale’s soul put into words and set to music. “We were thrown into chaos suddenly,” says Sarah Jane of Juniper Vale. “And this album began at that very first ‘what?!’”.
The new album features the musical efforts of Nashville-based indie band Paden, video game voice actor Erika Ishii, Top 40 CCM artist Jason Gray, indie artist Vian Izak, violinist Avery Bright, and saxophonist Max Abrams. Together, this select group boasts an array of talents and sounds that have created a most unique album.
The album kicks off with “Imagination,” which features RØRE, and reels the listener in from the jump. The swelling strings in the track paired with Jane’s bright and airy vocals are a match made in heaven. “Imagination” reminds its listeners that there is a child deep within all of us that must be explored. Notable lyrics include, “Look inside and you will find / All your dreams are standing by / All you have to do is hold on to imagination.”
Her single, “Decades,” featuring Vian Izak, is an 80s synth-pop inspired love song that is sure to have you “feeling fancy”. Jane’s voice is a beautiful match for Izak’s duet featured in the second verse. Together the two paint a picture of that perfect 80s nostalgia with lyrics like “Pretty young things, spinning so free / Let’s loosen up our feet and swing to ‘Come On Eileen,'” as well as a subtle reference to the lyrics of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” in the song’s outro.
The cinematic title track for this album might have one asking, “Where were we when the sky fell down?” Highlights from this track include the actual audio used on the news from when the tornado struck on that fateful March day. Paden adds their two cents on the second verse, and the band was featured in this particular song because their home was one such tornado casualty, and they wanted to share their traumatic experience in song.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I listened to a lot of lo-fi-hip hop music during quarantine. The saxophone instrumental by Max Abrams featured in Juniper Vale’s other single, “Want,” took me back to that familiar time when we were all “bored in the house and in the house bored”. The voice-over in the track made the song that much more lo-fi with a sense of cinematic appeal.
The 48-second closing track shows its listeners that Juniper Vale’s newest album ends as it begins . . . suddenly! “Outro” features all of the known thematic musical elements used throughout the album, such as voice over effects, swelling strings, wind chimes, Jane’s lilting vocals and keeps the same key as “Imagination” to close the album the way that it started.
Created in the shadow of a future unknown, Suddenly What?! carries a deep faith that things will indeed be okay for all of us despite unforeseen, life-altering circumstances.