San Diego’s Jessica Lerner has a new EP, After (H) Ours, a self-produced disc of five originals that fit snugly in the piano-based relationship ballad mold. She is a capable singer and pianist, and despite the mix, which tends to swamp her vocal in spots, Lerner steps out effectively; the overall somber feel of the breakup songs seems by design and the lyrics (listed on the artwork) are a plus.
Lerner starts out with “Come On,” ready to do battle with a wayward lover, and in the process hammers home the chorus phrases: “Come on, don’t leave me this way” dozens of times. A far better song, “Love Don’t Change,” follows, another heartbreak tune about lovers separated by space and circumstance. It has a catchy hook and beefs up her vocals on the choruses with harmonies: “I don’t know if you ever think of me/ Just want to know that you’re okay.”
Lerner is more playful and positive on “Go Slow,” as she sings of making a new love connection at a gathering: “Touch me, but not there/Everybody’s watching me and you.” It is driven by a livelier guitar/piano riff, and by the end things get physical: “Do it now or it’s over/ Rinse, repeat, but I’m never clean.” No surprise, the next tune is “Under These Sheets.”
It’s goodbye time again on the closer, “Fly Away,” which is the highlight and breaks the somber mold with a floating arrangement that has Lerner cutting loose vocally, and also includes some tasty piano and sax interplay.