April 19, 2004

Jen Gloeckner "Miles Away"


That sums up my first reaction after my first listen to Jen Gloeckner's debut album, Miles Away. As soon as I finished listening to it, I knew that I simply had to include her on my sampler. This voice, this talent, this woman appears out of nowhere with one of the most beautiful records I've heard this year--if not longer--and I simply could not allow you to not hear her. It was a total no-brainer on my part, and from the feedback I've had from those who have downloaded her song "Otherside"--which I recommend that you download NOW if you haven't--I'm not alone in being overwhelmed by her awesome voice.

If you're being a bit reticent about that hyperbolic paragraph and my generally gushing demeanor, then let me give you a bit of a description of that voice of hers. It's husky and rough--but in a good way. It's deep yet soft; it's sensual and romantic; it's experienced yet gentle. I'm reminded of Stevie Nicks, but only in a good way. Don't let that comparison scare you off; despite her material and ubiquity as queen of the 70s, Stevie Nicks' singing voice was excellent in her heyday, and Jen could easily give her a run for the money. At the same time, her voice has a darker quality that is reminiscent of more atmospheric singers as Kendra Smith and Heidi Berry. But instead of thinking that she sounds like someone else, it should be noted that she has a sound that's all her own, and she's set herself apart from those she might be compared to.

Indeed, there's a gothic (NOT Goth!) quality to Miles Away. It's dark and scary and occasionally it delves into fantasy, but the songs all have a really deep personal touch to them that I've not heard in ages. While occasionally her songs have lyrics that are fantasy-minded, the songs are all about love and pain and loss and life--you know, the everyday stuff that makes up life. What seperates her from others is her presentation; she fuses folk with equal parts country, electronica and jazz--and on "Clear the Sand," even world music! Though it's an impressive feat that she performed much of the instrumental accompaniment, it's even more impressive that these songs never sound weak because of it--a common malady of playing all of the instruments yourself.

Still, you can't put Miles Away into an easy box. It's simply impossible to do so, because there's so much to love, and there's so much going on that you really don't have time to think about anyone else but her. From the simple guitar picking and country feel of "Spinning Heads" and "Mountains" to the breathless and ominous atmosphere of "Only 1" and "Nothing Personal," Jen will take you through a world that's all her own. About the only moments I didn't really go for were the more fantasy-based lyrics of "Nothing Personal"--with an Alice in Wonderland theme--but that doesn't detract from the utterly beautiful arrangement, and considering how wonderful Miles Away is, it's something that you could easily overlook..

Miles Away is a breathtaking debut album from a young woman who deserves to be heard, and I'm happy to say that getting heard is not going to be a problem, because she's impressing a lot of people these days. You should give her a chance and let her entrance you. One of the best debut records of the year--I'll be surprised if anything surpasses it, honestly--and quite possibly one of the best records of the year. Miles Away is simply wonderful. Period. End of story.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.jengloeckner.com

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