With a nomadic history and a complicated relationship with “home,” New Zealand born-and-raised musician Jess Cornelius grew up, at least musically, in Australia, where she struck gold again and again, releasing three critically acclaimed albums with her Melbourne-based project Teeth & Tongue through Remote Control in Australia and Dot Dash/Omnian in North America. Rolling Stone named Cornelius a “New Artist You Need to Know” and the Guardian praised her “instant-classic potential”, and “songwriting so assured it seems Cornelius has finally found her niche.”
Then in 2018, after touring the world—including stints with Courtney Barnett and Australian music icon Paul Kelly—the singer/songwriter, instrumentalist and producer “upped sticks,” departing her adopted continent for the expansiveness of Los Angeles and indefinitely discarding her Teeth & Tongue moniker in the process.
Cornelius’s decision to put her previous project on ice and start performing and recording under her own name came largely from an increasing desire for authenticity and truth, and Cornelius reflects that same desire through her new songs: direct and honest explorations of womanhood and human-ness, ageing and existing, all delivered through her startling voice. Intimate and intensely affecting, Cornelius’ shapeshifting delivery and raw-edged pop sensibilities guide the listener through a shared communion of vulnerability and control.
The response to Cornelius’s debut release as “herself” was swift and emphatic. Longtime fans, fresh ears, and critics alike embraced the minimal, devastatingly raw direction of the EP Nothing Is Lost (Dot Dash/Remote Control 2017). Recorded live in single takes by Cornelius on Christmas Day during the stinking hot Melbourne 2016 summer, the five-song release strips her songwriting and guitar playing down to its barest elements, placing Cornelius’ lyrics and vocal delivery in the spotlight. It’s a marked departure from the four heavily-layered alt-pop albums she released as Teeth & Tongue and uses only electric guitar, voice, bass and floor tom to create a suite of spare and sublime, garage-folk.
The first single ‘Jealousy’ premiered on NYLON, and the second single, ‘Love and Low Self Esteem’ was named one of Australia’s best releases of 2017 by RRR’s Simon Winkler in Tone Deaf magazine. He called it “a poignant lyrical reflection that commands attention from start to finish”. The song finds Cornelius taking stock of a relationship in ruins, confessing, “Sometimes I can’t tell the difference / Between love and low self-esteem/ ‘Cause it’s when I’m feeling tiny as an eyelash / That’s when I want to be all you need.”
Cornelius’ new work builds on her past successes as Teeth & Tongue: four-star reviews in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Herald Sun, The Music and Rolling Stone, and nominations for a J Award and the Australian Music Prize, as well as five The Age Victorian Music Awards including Best Album, Best Band and Best Female Artist.
Renowned for the twin states of intensity and seductive ease she brings to her memorable live shows, Cornelius displays an intimidating command of her songs, delivering powerful performances underscored by brutal simplicity and rawness of feeling. She’s won crowds over around the world, playing alongside Courtney Barnett, Vance Joy, J. Mascis, Laura Marling, Juana Molina, Mountain Goats and Sons & Daughters, and has enthralled audiences at coveted festival slots such as Meredith Music Festival, Laneway Festival, Falls Festival, SXSW, Boogie festival, Perth International Arts Festival and Darwin Festival.
Now, after a period of reflection and adjustment, she is set to release new material written in bedrooms and kitchens across Australia, the US, New Zealand and Brazil, and recorded in Los Angeles’ storied Highland Park. Created with her band mates Steven Urgo (War On Drugs), Ryan Weinstein (Tortoise, Cairo Gang) and producer Tony Buchen, these songs include special appearances by Justin Sullivan (Kevin Morby, Night Shop), Laura Jean Anderson; and anyone else they could rope into the studio to sing backing vocals.
Cornelius’s career is, by all markers, only just beginning; her previous work simply a training ground for what’s next. Given Teeth & Tongue’s success and accolades, her solo sidestep was a gamble, but one that has paid off, and her reward is an exciting and ever-growing body of new work; the flexibility to join forces with LA’s best musical collaborators; and a sublime and undeniable mastery of her craft.
“The soul-baring tune is a vast departure from the fast-paced tracks previously heard on Teeth & Tongue records. Cornelius steps into her own and makes her powerful voice the focal point of the raw earworm.” – NYLON
“A devastating listen. Part pop gem, part electro burner—and it’s spot on.” – The Guardian
“A new artist you need to know” – Rolling Stone US
“Beautifully raw and affecting, Jess Cornelius’s voice makes you sit up and take notice.” – mX Magazine
“She sings better than ever on this album, channeling Heart’s Ann Wilson while mastering Springsteen-esque character studies” – Rolling Stone AUS ★★★★
“Her music’s what Cat-Power-circa-now would make if she legitimately wanted to punch the world in the face.” – USA Today
“Glacial keys and cracking drums that rise from echoing blank space like the best ’80s synth-pop.” – The Age ★★★★
“Underrate Teeth & Tongue albums at your peril” —Herald Sun HIT ★★★★