“Do you think that God is laughing? Do you think that that’s a silly question?” opens the new EP from Chicago singer-songwriter Jessica Mindrum.
Mindrum, who previously released two projects in 2018, began recording what was to be her next EP in 2020. But then the pandemic hit, and Mindrum would experience a wave of loss and grief: She lost her grandmother, uncle, and her dog. After a break, when Mindrum returned to her music, the songs that she had been working on no longer connected with her. “I realized that they were about trivial things,” she explains. So she, along with her producer Joe George, wrote and recorded an entirely new set of songs.
The result is Restart, Begin, an EP of five songs full of sincerity and soft musings. Acoustic guitar pluckings, delicate piano melodies, and shimmering strings are nearly omnipresent. There’s spots of dark humor, too, especially on the opening track, “Do You Think God is Laughing?”
“I had never experienced true grief before 2020 and then I experienced a tsunami of it,” Mindrum says. “Everything that happened to me is obviously not funny but if you look at it in a cosmic joke kind of way, you can laugh at it, in a morbid way.”
While the EP does give the sense that Mindrum is working through sorrow, as a whole, it is not entirely sorrowful. Rather, the songs feel vulnerable, poignant, and self-aware in their own sadness. “When the fog burns off, I’ll be down by the house, burning out,” sings Mindrum in “Cardinal,” which is an absolutely haunting line. “Easy," a short song, tells a story about letting someone in, but also wanting to be somewhere else or to be someone else. There’s “I-88,” a song of desire, of driving, and of highways that take you to and from lovers.
“Restart, Begin,” the title track, closes the project. Backed by the full hum of an electric guitar, Mindrum’s words are powerful. “Did I learn to love or did I just fear that I am not enough?” Mindrum sings. “I can’t remember the weight of the water/ the voice of my mother/ the insolent daughter.” The song builds as it goes on, repeating the hook and gaining strength, until she ends with the essential question: “Do I restart begin?”
“There’s a Joan Didion quote I always come back to,” Mindrum says. “To remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.” And that seems to be the final conclusion of the track “Restart, Begin,” as well the EP as a whole: To remember yourself. To remember who you are, and to begin again.
Listen to Restart, Begin below.