Esthero – “Country Livin’ (The World I Know)”

…Otherwise known as, “that one song that was in every other movie and television show in the late ’90s with a mysterious, brooding female lead.”

Esthero was the duo of Toronto singer Jenny-Bea Englishman and Canadian-born, Minnesota-raised producer Martin “Doc” McKinney, who in the late ’90s came together to create a classic record in Breath From Another, a simmering, trip-hoppish affair in the vein of Morcheeba or Sneaker Pimps. The record is sensual, alluring, and full of attitude. Doc’s production is lush and captivating, and Esthero brings vulnerability and a fire to her performances. The duo gelled well, and struck at the right time, 1998, right in the middle of that Buffy and Björk era when everyone was trying to be cool, aloof, and mysterious…but not enough to be off-putting. The album was a critical success and a commercial smash….well, a commercial smash in Canada, at least, and as a kid I remember seeing videos for a few singles here and there back in the day.

It’s a damn shame that Esthero and Doc split up not long after this record, and Esthero distanced herself from its sound and vibe for her next album, 2005’s Wikked Lil Grrrls, but both she and Doc have gone on to some pretty laudable careers. Esthero has worked with artists like Goodie MobMos Def, Saul Williams, and Kanye (laying background vocals on 808s & Heartbreak, no less), and Doc has produced for acts like k-osRaphael Saadiq, and, perhaps most strikingly, The Weeknd…with Doc bringing that same sense of despair and darkness from Breath From Another to House of Balloons and Thursday. Not bad at all.