May 14, 2005

Jennifer O'Connor "The Color & The Light"

A good song doesn't need bells and whistles to make it perfect, to make it meaningful. At the same time, when you make music that's not reliant on accompaniment, you have to be real good at what you do, lest you come across lookin' like a fool. Let's not even open the can of worms about the ratio of good folk-style songwriters to utter crap, shall we? Anyway, native New Yorker Jennifer O'Connor's been around a while, and I'm just now learning of her via her excellent second album, The Color and The Light. Her ability to get to the heart of the listener using just a very basic musical formula and very few 'bells and whistles,' well, that's something that is rare these days, and it makes me feel as if I've missed out on a really amazing talent

It's not a problem, though, because there's plenty of goodness on The Color and The Light. Kicking off with the excellent "Beg or Borrow Days," O'Connor sets the stage for the rest of the album--mid-tempo country-tinged folk-rock that's reminiscent of artists like Liz Phair, Kristin Hersh and Mary Lou Lord. She's backed by a band on some songs (such as the excellent "Driving Through" and "Million Dollar Smile") and she's by herself on others (such as the gorgeously sad "The Thought of You), but she's never one or the other--creating a nice stylistic variety that breaks any stylistic monotony that might develop. O'Connor sings with a voice that falls between weary and weathered; these songs tell of love and loss and confusion and confession and they're the sort of songs that come from the experience of living life. Thankfully, she's not self-indulgent or too emotional or too trapped by the trappings of the folk-singer trap.

I like The Color & The Light. It's intelligent and it's enjoyable--two things that don't seem to matter in music any more. Listen when your heart is broken or your heart is happy--Jennifer O'Connor's all-occasion for your emotional situation!

--Joseph Kyle

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