Jess Kallen steps out today with "A Garden Bed of Thistle Weeds," the 26-year-old guitar wiz's first single from a debut album expected in Spring of 2023. Kallen – who has been spotted as a sideperson on tours with Alex Lahey, Rosie Tucker, even the occasional show with Olivia Rodrigo – offers up thoughtfully arranged folkish-rock that navigates grief, rage, and love with raucous urgency and whimsical charm, for fans of Phoebe Bridgers, Indigo De Souza and Haley Henderickx.
“A Garden Bed of Thistle Weeds” peers through the window of engrossed introspection. Hazy, ambient guitars set the scene, in what feels like an homage to Kallen's foggy San Francisco roots. As Kallen (they/them) comes to “grip on the shovel” of their own fury, “Watch me dig, watch my cold blood boil while I figure it out,” they insist. The song squirms in the turmoil conflict brings: asserting power with clever defiance (“Some food for thought now, I should never be/ A reaper sowing your way to grief”), before returning to the aching confession, “I don’t want to leave”. The chorus rises in a slow and washy crescendo, as guitar and voice blend in unison.
This partnership between guitars and vocals feels like a realization for an instrumentalist stepping center stage. Kallen gravitated towards the guitar hungrily at age five. “My dad was always strumming a guitar around the house,” they recall. “He’s a metalhead, a total San Francisco misfit. I wanted to be exactly like him.” In 2014, Kallen moved to Los Angeles to attend music school for guitar, and they continue to call L.A. home between tours.