Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

{jen korte and the loss}

Being honest with your emotions is a tricky game. And while you could ask Jen Korte about how to best navigate this labyrinth – you could also just watch her on stage. Listen to her mingle in the night. Watch her smile and sing and bellow and dance, in light or in the dark.

In life or at the fore of a room full of eyes, with her guitar strapped to her shoulder like a cannon – Jen Korte has a colossal presence. Even seasoned professionals, who have played stages all around the country, rarely appear as collected and assured of themselves as Korte does. For this reason I am not of the belief that it is out of sheer practice and repetition that one can play with a solemn heart on their sleeve like Jen Korte does.

Live, she will astonish you. She will give you chills and leave you at that precise moment you never want a lover to leave you. Korte sings with a nearly unparalleled intensity so robust and honest that it is almost frightening. Her voice fluctuates skillfully from a songful whistle to a roaring, sonorous call that embodies not one, but all of the larger than life animals of the African savannah.

Under the lights, Jen Korte sings like I want to sing. Under the lights, Jen Korte cries with a throaty torture, like I want to be tortured.

Watching Jen Korte on stage and I have learned what it looks and feels like to wear your heart on your sleeve in public and tremble in your perfunctory call to the heavens as all the gods punish you for all of our collective and sloppy transgressions.

And sure, Korte’s charisma and poise could be mistaken for a supreme confidence or even some megalomania. But I assure you neither of these sentiments ring true when it comes to Jen Korte. She is as genuine and solemn of a human and a musician as I have ever known.

Admittedly, the music gig is still a new one for Korte. It really has only begun to take concrete shape while living in Denver. But as she has only lived in the Queen City for a period of less than 3 years, Korte is still very much blossoming as a musician: in finding her sound and true calling.

A New Mexican native, but a Texan at heart, from a very young age Korte was on stage: singing and modeling and acting. But after a memorably difficult audition for a musical – one in which she didn’t get the part because she couldn’t sing – Korte had apprehensions about being on stage. For one who was so active in the spotlight, it is a surprise to learn that she never was certain what she wanted to do when she grew up. Still she went to college for theater. And while she could act, she was sent to a remedial vocal class, because she just couldn’t sing.

Yet, as is the case when one continues working and progressing forward – fate intervened. In Austin Korte’s musical provenance came in the form of a childhood friend, Morgan Coley, whom Korte made a pact with – that when they learned to play instruments they would form a band. Still terrified by her inability sing in the manner that she wanted to – Korte stepped-up to the challenge, again – this time on her own.

Slowly, Korte began to work-out her voice. And after some time, she began to find success. Then Korte and Coley began playing small gigs around Austin, the both of them still trying to truly find their feet. Driven by the taste of progress in Texas, Korte moved to Denver. Soon after Coley followed. And while Korte’s story is one drawn with the marker of what it takes to succeed and the requisite drive – it is also laced with uncertainty and growth.

For this and more Jen Korte is all too human. And for this I have fallen in love and admiration with what she does on stage, in a recording studio and in-person.

In her perpetual drive to find her voice and place, Korte has sampled various genres while in Denver. She has done the straight-up rock n’ roll gig with a full band. She’s played in a hip hop band. And now, with her latest project – one that this author believes already has spawned legs: Jen Korte and the Loss. Scaled down from some of her previous work – The Loss is rich in its spaciousness. The landscape that Korte has created is sexy and robust and layered with thick verses and memorable phrases.

Jen Korte and the Loss’ latest EP, Liquor Written Songs, is gorgeous and ambitious. It is witty in its manifold compositions and textures. It is brave and by no means lands anywhere near the middle median of the road. Testament to this was Korte’s first appearance at the singer and songwriter extravaganza, A Moveable Feast. For Korte’s performance, her stage was packed with people bleeding out and onto the sidewalks just to listen. In the end that late September performance was powerful, nearly overwhelming. But as I’ve come to know Jen Korte, that is simply par for the course.

Korte’s music is laced like two nervous hands courting the other with themes of relationships and love and being seduced by people and moments. And if you have never seen Jen Korte’s heart – it’s all over her work: in her songs and on her face. It’s in her sweet voice. Her musical screams. Her beckoning. And it’s in the way she looks you in the eyes.

Korte’s musical output is emotion, embodied. Carefully constructed, with some of her pieces even being deceptively simple at the base of construction, Korte concerns herself with the dynamics of emotion. With or without drums, the music’s pulse is always her heart, with her façade out front, pushing at that the dynamic of owning up to one’s self while remaining naked and honest in only the most profound of ways.

Always working, Korte’s ethic around production feels more like searching. Challenging. Talking to her about the future and its prospects and Korte responds with the sentiment that she’s humbled by all the work that she has before her. And while I think that part of Korte wants to find some ultimate stability in her long and winding path, as a musician and a girl – I also think everyone needs a catalyst; and Korte’s catalyst is her self. To this end, nothing could be more appropriate.

You can see this struggle, this catalyst. In Korte’s music, you can – more than hear it – you can feel it. Touch it. Heart it.

And in navigating this life where passions rule our reason, if all one can do is work things out by feeling them – then I have to believe that the omens will reveal themselves. And this is precisely why Jen Korte’s future is already shimmering with omens and light.

Stay tuned with Jen Korte and the Loss’ future shows and upcoming albums, here: www.myspace.com/jenkorteandtheloss.