10 reasons why you should forget everything you’ve heard about female singer-songwriters and slap on the new JENNIFER O'CONNOR LP, Here With Me…
by Gail O'Hara
1. THE NEW ALBUM
The brand spanking new Jennifer O’Connor LP, Here With Me, is here. It was produced, recorded and mixed by John Agnello (Sonic Youth, The Hold Steady, Dinosaur Jr.) in 12 very productive days at Headgear in Brooklyn in March 2008. Basic tracks - including vocals - were recorded live. It will be released on Matador Records on August 19, 2008, and it will bring the Brooklyn musician to the mass audience she so completely and utterly deserves.
“I try to make each record better than the one before,” says Jennifer. “I was also going for a more cohesive ‘band’ sound and I think we achieved it. Since we made the record so quickly there's a real sense of urgency and immediacy in the recording.”
2. THE BACK CATALOG
Building upon the fine indie-rock tradition of song of the 1990s (such as Smog, Spinanes and Mark Eitzel), Jennifer released her self-titled debut album (2002), which was pretty great, but the follow-up, The Color and the Light (Red Panda, 2005), was even better. Her Matador debut, Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars (2006), was – you guessed it – even better, or the best. Until now…
3. THE CRACK TEAM
The players on Here with Me are Jennifer (duh! on vocals,guitars, piano and organ), Jon Langmead (drums), Michael Brodlieb (bass) and Michael Strandberg (guitar). Fabulous guest players include Franz Nicolay from the Hold Steady (piano, organ and accordion on two songs); Darren Jessee from Hotel Lights and Ben Folds Five (back-up vocals on track one); and the dulcet-toned singer Amy Bezunartea (back-up vox and harmonica on a few songs).
4. SHE CAN SING!
Jennifer has a singular voice that at the same time sounds like Everygirl. It draws you into her world, makes you feel like you know her, you can relate to her. She may only be a young thing, but she’s had way more than her share of hard knocks, and you can feel that in every note that comes swooping out of her head. James McNew, her labelmate, sometime collaborator and member of Yo La Tengo, proclaims: “Jennifer has a voice like an angel. And not the fruity kind of angel, the good kind.” The dude from Spoon, Britt Daniel, was so impressed he sang on her last album.
5. SHE CAN WRITE!
Jennifer writes stories about the human condition with simple lyrics and puts them in beautiful melodies. Occasionally she is quiet and alone, other times she’s backed by a razor-sharp band. She writes about death, endurance and continuing -and on Here With Me - love. It sounds heavy but there’s always a feeling of hope and light in her music.
"This album has a lot of the same themes I've always written about, but it's fair to say that this one is made predominantly of love songs. 'Here With Me' refers to my girlfriend, but also to people I've lost - they stay with me in my heart and mind."
6. SHE BREAKS THE MOLD
The phrase “female singer-songwriter” has been tarnished by hordes of over-emoting waifs making premature compact discs and MySpace pages and weaving their interchangeable voices and boring music into their sad tales. That is far too limiting a term for what Jennifer does. If she were singing under a band name instead of her own, people would understand that she darts around from soft, poignant ballads to urgent folk pop and taut trad rock. Is categorization really necessary? No.
7. THE WORLD WILL LISTEN
Her diverse and eclectic sound speaks directly to more than one audience – she counts soccer moms, hipsters, English fops, toddlers, Bushwick lesbians, nu-folk chicks, French new-wavers and indie nerds among her ballooning fan base. It’s easy to imagine her filling stages at Coachella or All Tomorrow’s Parties. Her intimate, matter-of-fact songs sound completely now and completely timeless at the same time.
8. EAST COASTER
All her life Jennifer has road-tripped back and forth from Connecticut & Florida to Atlanta & Brooklyn. She had a band called Violet in Atlanta after college. She moved to NYC in 2000 and her early solo recordings dazzled the local press. She worked at the Knitting Factory & tends bar sometimes. She loves to eBay. A psychic once told her she’d be very famous and rich.
9. REAL GIRL
Jennifer’s not going to melt down on stage, and she doesn’t pout like Jenny Lewis or flaunt velour pantsuits like Feist. There’s no hair and make-up, it’s not her scene. So what? Since when does pop music have to be a freak show car crash fashion show? It’s about the music. In a world of complete fakes, Jennifer is real, raw, honest and way too good for showbiz.
10. MUSIC IS OUR RELIGION
And all Jennifer O’Connor cares about is making it perfect.