In a recent interview with American Songwriter, the dream/pop leaning Darren Jesssee – discussing his second solo project Remover, fashioned as a “sister album” to his 2018 debut The Jane, Room 217 – makes an intriguing observation: “Love songs are so hard to write because love is not something you say to someone, it’s something you show them through your actions.” Though he sometimes chooses obtuse angles on romance, he makes the process look effortless.
The former longtime Ben Folds Five drummer and lead singer of indie rockers Hotel Lights shows us plenty about where his musical muse travels and finds solace. From the lilting subtle lament of “Dead Weight” through the wistful, folky acoustic gem “I Don’t Believe in You” and the lush, ambient closing travelogue “Getting Back To It Now,” he infuses his heartfelt, alternately hopeful and world and soul weary narratives with lush lyrical images of nature while wrapping his gentle vocals and acoustic grace with symphonic sweep and a slightly more rhythmic pop/rock edge.
Jessee’s intriguing choice to title the album Remover – a word which appears nowhere in the lyrics – leads to the possibility that the singer is using the ups and downs of lovelorn adventures and their aftermath, as well as all the travel imagery, as metaphoric centerpieces for a deeper philosophy of life.
After all, his career, like his life, has undergone many shifts and he offers hints when he says, “We could be talking about removing a façade that we have been living under. . .I had in the past removed myself from famous bands to pursue a deeper desire to be an artist.”
So while he takes us to stunning places in his heart and the world – including the glorious water off the coast of Maine on the hypnotic, mystical “Cape Elizabeth” and the bank of North Carolina’s Eno River on the similarly drifting “Free Rein” – those may simply be points to ground our sensibilities as we reach for more existential meanings. It’s not the first time he’s intrigued us with titles that keep us guessing.