Sydney artist Montaigne, also known as Jess Cerro, has returned. Already in 2016 she has signalled a new, more forceful direction to her sound. The single "In the Dark," which came out in January, is a jam complete with honking horns, robot vocals and exuberant stop-start dynamics. Now, her latest single "Because I Love You" surveys the wreckage of a failed relationship with the most killer hooks you've ever heard on a break-up song.
Hidden behind a sparkling, stomping pop sound are songs that unpack serious and complex feelings and playfully subvert expectations surrounding pop music and the submissive femininity that's often associated with it. Montaigne's embrace of pop may be, ironically, the most radical thing she could do.
When we spoke to Montaigne almost exactly a year ago, she mentioned Marina and the Diamonds and Björk (among others) as influences, and they are certainly present in her strident and uncompromising delivery on "Because I Love You." She has stripped any traces of wispiness or demureness from her vocal performance, and the result is breathtaking and more than a little intimidating. So often female songwriters are expected to work in modes that are confessional and intimate, but the only thing Montaigne is confessing is her confidence.
Montaigne shows, like the artists that inspire her, that hooks and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. She's a big fan of wry jokes, self-effacing reflection and ironic understatement, but she never loses sight of the melody and the rhythm. "Because I Love You" is laced with ribbons of curly synthesisers, and buoyant piano chords that rise like balloons. She commands attention, and her songs are stronger for it.
The artistic growth in Montaigne's music over the past year has been subtle, but immediately noticeable, and her two latest singles prove that she is a mature and very capable songwriter who is unafraid to take risks on bold sounds and ideas. It's very exciting to see what's on the horizon for her.
Montaigne will soon be hitting the road on the back of "Because I Love You." Keep your ear to the ground, because you'll definitely hear her coming.