Ears Wide Open: Jess Kallen

Jess Kallen (Photo by Jon Del Real)

Jess Kallen has toured and/or recorded with the likes of Alex Lahey, Rosie Tucker, Bella Porter, Grace Corsi and, briefly, Olivia Rodrigo, among others. Now it is time for the 26-year-old guitar ace to shine as a solo artist.

Since November, Kallen has released two singles — “A Garden Bed of Thistle Weeds” and “The Knife” — the first in a collection of songs produced by Wolfy (Maddie Ross, Tucker, LA Parties) that will come out on an as-yet-untitled full-length due this spring via New Professor Music.

The Bay Area native’s folk-adjacent indie-rock (think Rilo Kiley, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and, yes, Tucker) illuminates a point of view that shifts from whimsical to melancholy, from wry to candid. The lyrics are as effective when they cut deep as when they merely scratch the skin. Depending on your level of misanthropy, Kallen seems either too damn smart to be sad, or too damn smart not to be.

“The Knife,” released last week, ends with the punchline: “The knife in my back is coming out clean,” sending the listener back for another time through.

The first song released from the album, “A Garden Bed of Thistle Weeds,” is a warmly introspective tune that sorts through some pent-up emotions: “Watch me dig, watch my cold blood boil while I figure it out,” sings Kallen, a voice that indeed bears watching.

||| Stream: “The Knife” and “A Garden Bed of Thistle Weeds”