Honest explorations of love, heartbreak, and self discovery hide behind Jill McCracken’s catchy Motown-inspired pop tunes.

Soul drips from Jill McCracken’s voice as she channels influences from Motown bands like the Jackson 5 on her debut album Shake Me Up. All the classic 70s pop motifs are present with staccato guitar riffs, grooving bass lines, and even occasional “ooh la la-las.” 

The album opens on “Lovesick Woman,” with McCracken finding herself at the beginning of a relationship. She confesses she doesn’t want to fall in love again, singing “I’ve been there before / and truthfully I’ve got shit to do”—the kind of lyrics one might expect in a slower song. Yet, the foot-tapping hi-hat beats of the chorus and dampened guitar riffs of the verses work together to bring a high energy and positivity that remains consistent throughout the songs that follow.

This is true even in the album’s slower songs; the choruses of “The Line” and “A Taste of Sweetness” perk up despite their lower energy verses. It’s in these songs that McCracken’s vocal range shines brightest as she bends her way up and down scales, while her lyrics question her relationships. In “The Line,” she openly wonders if she’s taking someone’s perceived indifference too seriously, while in “A Taste of Sweetness” she finds herself hoping for “A taste of sweetness / from somebody new”—despite her commitment to another person.

Though much of Shake Me Up deals with the conflict that comes with heartbreak and relationships, McCracken also spends time exploring the difficulties of coming to terms with sexuality in the song “Whole Wide World.” Here, McCracken opens the topic through the world of relationships, but only does so briefly as she sings “Do you feel like somethings missing? / You wanna fix it but you don’t know how,” while later repeating, “anything you got in let it out / Don’t you waste time being untrue to you” in the song’s bridge.

Despite the album’s familiar sound, Shake Me Up still manages to surprise by providing fresh twists of modernity. These songs relish in their ability to throwback to 70s nostalgia without losing influences from subsequent decades. The album’s titular song, “Shake Me Up” proudly sports a fast paced guitar solo, while the combined grooving bass line and playful keyboard in “Honey” provide enough of a Latin flair that they could find themselves at home in a playlist full of Santana.

What really sets this album apart, however, is all the positivity. McCracken isn’t apologizing for her inner conflicts in these songs—she’s accepting what she wants and who she is, not wasting time being untrue to herself, and the effect is refreshing.

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