Jenny O - Home [EP]
Forgive me for being so presumptuous, but you've heard Jenny O before. At least, if your listening habits intersect with mine at the right points – and why the hell shouldn't they? – you've heard Jenny O before. You probably just don't know it yet.
The past few years have seen her enriching the background of two of my favourite albums - Chris Garneau's 2007 album Music For Tourists and his 2009 follow-up El Radio. More recently she's been cropping up on recordings with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and former Fleet Foxes drummer J. Tillman's solo project Father John Misty.
Glistening, twinkly indie-folk credentials aside, her solo EP Home sees her start to find her own voice rather than complementing somebody else's.
Opening track 'Well OK Honey' proves to be a somewhat misleading starting point - an incredibly 60s sounding walking bassline coupled with a vocal melody akin to recent Iron and Wine efforts, only much lighter and more carefree. Lyrics like "I am a hippie" harmonise joyously over a very minimal backing band for a short two-minutes-or-so burst of pop homage before coming to a halt to allow a more sombre Jenny O to whisper herself into the rest of the EP.
'All My Wishes' tears away all the richness of its predecessor and replaces it with heartbreakingly sparse guitars and a quiet - not quite melancholic, but definitely not cheery - vocal take that lures you into a safe place where Jenny can whisper her thoughts directly into your ear.
The overarching delivery of this EP (severely out of place opening track notwithstanding) seems to be one of restrained emotion, beautiful harmonies and subtle but irresistibly cutesy hooks, specifically on the piano driven tracks towards the conclusion of this 17 minute collection of songs.
I say 'collection of songs' because that's exactly what this is - it doesn't have a strong enough cohesiveness to string together and flow as a short record. Each song has a different identity and each it's own over-familiarity that leaves me wondering for five or ten minutes after what exactly it reminded me of - which in the case of 'Won't Let You Leave' was the hypothetical 'if The Knife did an acoustic tribute to Fleetwood Mac..'. Admittedly a very specific observation, but one that gnawed away at me nonetheless.
Jenny O's strength here definitely lies in Piano and Voice dancing with one another in synchronicity before building a larger sound around their foundations. If you treat Home as the foundation for something bigger - for instance the album which is finished but yet to be released - then retroactively I feel this EP will fall into place.