Back in 2013, singer-songwriter Courtney Jaye and Rogue Wave frontman Zach Schwartz first met with the intent to write a song. It was their publisher’s idea and the fortuitous encounter set into motion the events that would lead to their first collaborative album, Pent Up. The duo go by Rogue + Jaye and they display what sounds like an effortless convergence of musical styles. The album occupies the spacious and constantly expanding grey area between pop, Americana and the already nebulous zone known as indie. The result is an arrangement of lush, dreamy acoustica, buoyed by the pair’s vocal synergy.
Pent Up kicks off with “Over and Over,” which introduces us to Jaye’s smoky-sweet warble that remains deceptively subdued until the chorus. It’s a hazy, sensual track that alternates between almost-whispered, throaty verses and an unexpected pop-powerhouse chorus that leads with the duo commanding in harmony, “Lay me down on the laundry.” Jaye and Schwartz’s easy chemistry is immediately evident and doesn’t let up — much to the benefit of what is a predominantly soulful, romantic album. Pent Up doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of love, either. Even turmoil and angst can be entrancing when filtered through the right set of vocal chords. “Til It Fades,” “Spider and Fly,” and “Little Relief” all touch on failed or failing love and the latter closes with both Jaye and Schwartz singing the line, “You’re fucking killing me,” with more than a hint of exasperation.
The duo hit a sweet spot between pop and folk and “Forces of Decay”— dropped directly in the middle of the album — is the best example, with a full-bodied acoustic backdrop and earnest, yet playfully arranged vocals that dissolve into each other like hard candy. “Heartbeat Wildly” lands further on the pop spectrum with atmospheric, sparsely laid instrumentals and Jaye’s barely-there, haunted croon echoing back to us as if off the walls of a canyon. “Til It Fades” is a hazy love song cut from the same glitter-dusted cloth as Mazzy Star.
Simple, but polished, Pent Up is a gratifying sonic confluence of two seasoned artists looking for something new. For Jaye, the collaboration came on the heels of a move (Nashville to LA) and the departure from a relationship; the songwriting process with Schwartz was a much-needed outlet and explains the more personal, bittersweet lyrical content. Hopefully this pairing isn’t just a fling — Jaye has already hinted at a second record and, with a first impression this good, the bar is set high.