Who: Jessica Dennison (rhythm guitar, vocals), Jessica Jones (lead guitar, vocals).
Sounds Like: Emily Dickinson's drowsy indie-pop four-track tapes.
For Fans Of: Mirah, Tiger Trap, the Postmarks.
The two Jessicas in Jessica Dennison and Jones aren't exactly forthcoming when it comes to specifics. They're not cagey, necessarily, but kind of nervously vague and giggly. Holy shit, are they giggly. For two best friends trying to explain something hugely personal to a third-wheel outsider, it's not surprising.
They met over a decade ago on a Lewis & Clark College message board for incoming freshmen and bonded immediately—months before meeting in person—over a mutual love of a certain Portland-based songwriter neither wants to mention by name.
"Dennison's all protective of our love for this man," Jessica Jones says. "He's so special to us."
After exchanging mixtapes through the mail and corresponding via email, the Jessicas began a casual, spare-time musical collaboration upon arriving at school, eventually forming the indie-pop band the Hoofbeats. They played parties and house shows and made some live recordings. But expectations remained modest, since both were full-time students and Jones played in another duo at the time.
"I was doing other stuff," Dennison says. "I didn't think you could just have music be the thing you do."
After college, Jones moved to Memphis and played guitar in a few bands, while Dennison returned home to Illinois to focus on just about everything but her own music. Eventually, she longed for the unique collaborative spark she shared with her college bestie. When her parents suggested she take a musical R&R sojourn to Memphis to visit Jones, the duo turned the trip into an impromptu band practice.
"Her mom bought us matching sweatsuits at Kohl's," Jones says.
"Yeah, we hung around in our velour playing music for two weeks," Dennison adds.
The vacation eventually led to a full-fledged revival of their musical partnership, smarter and more intentional than its predecessor. After they amassed enough material for a proper release, they returned to Portland to finally devote themselves to the project entirely, getting Randy Bemrose of Radiation City to produce.
Jessica Dennison + Jones adheres to a breezy, whisper-quiet aesthetic with a BPM akin to the heartbeat of a peaceful slumber. Dennison's cozy, unpretentious chord progressions establish a simple frame on which she sings soft, idle observations of quotidian environs—prayer circles, weeds among a flowerbed, the honey-colored walls of an attic in the afternoon. Jones' twinkling guitar leads are the melodic counterpart, a flourish of color inflected casually every few bars. Dennison and Jones' strength is knowing that reducing something to its most basic elements will emphasize anything impure, and they use the simplicity of their intention perfectly.
"Dennison always wrote my favorite songs, ever," Jones says. "One of the reasons I came back here was to make this thing with her be the thing I did in life. But it's just a byproduct of our friendship."
SEE IT: Jessica Dennison + Jones play Turn Turn Turn, 8 NE Killingsworth St., with Dragging an Ox Through Water and Landlines, on Saturday, March 4. 8 pm. Contact venue for ticket prices. 21+.