Singer-songwriter Jenny O. seems pretty well-versed in her overall knowledge of pop. Not only has she covered “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” by the Seeds, she even appeared on a 2005 tribute to Gennett Records with a cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s "Stardust." Jenny was also the only unsigned artist to appear on the Rave On Buddy Holly tribute with her rendition of “I’m Gonna Love You Too.” On the live front, she has toured with Rodriguez and the Proclaimers. Jenny O. surely seems all over the place and has already lived more than a few lifetimes, while outlasting several temporal scenes. In fact, she has already knocked around Nashville and Los Angeles, and actually has an extensive background on the East Coast playing double bass and studying jazz. Currently, she appears to have fully absorbed the Pacific Coast Time ethos of Southern California. She comes across as a full-fledged Californian who has maybe read her fair share of Eve Babitz and Joan Didion. Wherever she may be, she has evolved as the circumstances and challenges change.
On New Truth, her third full-length album, she makes her mark by following some well-established trails, while also blazing some of her own. “God Knows Why” is layered in lavish echo with lyrics unfolding to evoke the yearning and questioning of Brian Wilson. Meanwhile, the verses of “Color Love” seem inspired by the Classic IV’s "Stormy" - especially that indelible and swanky opening, “You were the sunshine, baby / Whenever you smiled / But I call you stormy today." This oldies influence makes sense as she has previous experience singing in '60s cover bands. “What About that Day” holds up a mirror to her harmonies - allowing them to stretch off into infinity like a science center display. Some of the more idiosyncratic aspects of her previous approaches and efforts have been smoothed out, while also guarding against being overly proficient and losing some of the charm in the process. She has long played around the edges of overlapping genres (indie, Americana, singer-songwriter), but as side 1 plays on, it starts to slip into being a little too atmospheric, shimmering, and languid for its own good.
Things take a turn towards the better as side 2 explores the more rustic routes with strummy guitars and harmonies coming to the fore. “Even If I Tried” is a glorious display of perfect mid-tempo pop with its ringing guitars reminiscent of the Primitives and later Lush. Over the years she has played in a grab bag of styles, good enough to get sync licensing for series like Riverdale and her music in car commercials, but never quite finding her breakthrough song. This could be a candidate to be her signature song, even if the overall élan belies an underlying melancholy.
The album continues its stride with little sparkling gems like “Small Talk” that recalls Someday-era Susanna Hoffs. The Southwestern sundown sounds of “Hard to Say” contains some moments of oversaturated dissonance - reflecting being out-of-tune with oneself but determined to overcome. Lastly, the uplifting “Seek Peace” ends the album on a truly peaceful note like how the Beach Boys’ Friends album begins (i.e., “Meant for You”). Recently, I noticed many of my favorite acts have been playing in the ramshackle Mojave Desert enclave of Pioneertown, CA at Pappy + Harriet’s. Jenny O. would be the perfect singer-songwriter to catch - if one just happens to be out there. - Ted (Downtown)
New Truth on Freegal
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